92-year-old steps in to stop fraud gang
Filed under: Your Rights
So what did these heroes do, and what can we learn from them?
92-year-old hero92-year-old John Gale from Maidstone was the victim of a gang who forced him to pay over-the-odds for unnecessary guttering and fascia work. He had been taken to the bank several times and had already handed over £3,300 cash when Kent Trading Standards arrived just in time to stop the next payment of £3,100.
Gale was closely involved in the case to bring the two men responsible to justice. Rebecca Simmons, Kent Trading Standards Officer, said: "It is thanks to the cooperation of Mr Gale that we were able to secure this good result against these rogue traders. Throughout this case, Mr Gale remained positive and confident and was always willing to help - with witness statements, police ID parades and court appearances."
The two men - John Hanley and John Brien from Banstead in Surrey - later pleaded guilty to a commercial practice which was aggressive and received a 12-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, a two-month curfew, 275 hours community service, costs of £1,250 each and were ordered to pay the victim back £3,300.
Simmons added: "Mr Gale was one of very few British prisoners kept at Auschwitz in the Second World War, where he witnessed the holocaust first-hand. He also survived the 'death marches' as the Germans forced all camp survivors to walk westwards in the wake of the advancing Russians. He has learnt from his experiences with these rogue traders and has been helping to educate others on how to prevent falling victim too. We are sure that his efforts will result in preventing others from falling for similar scams."
Female pensioner campaignsPensioner Joan Morrison from Macclesfield was incensed when she realised that she'd been the victim of rogue traders who cold-called her to do work on her roof. The men had cold-called, making false claims about the state of her chimney and said that if urgent work was not done then she would have further problems with her property.
She reported the incident to Consumer Direct, and as a result, father and son Donald James Warner and James Dean Warner of Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent were convicted at Macclesfield Magistrates Court for fraud, cancellation rights and consumer protection offences, each receiving a 12-month community order with 150 hours of unpaid work.
Rick Hughes, Lead Officer Doorstep Crime at Cheshire East Consumer Protection and Investigations Team (Trading Standards), said: "During our investigation I became aware of Joan's bravery as she was always helpful and forthcoming. I was conscious that the incident had had some effect on her, but she was determined to help us track down the offenders and even more for her, prevent others becoming victims. She wants to make sure that others should also have the confidence to report such offences."
Joan attended court and was also the spearhead for the launch of Cheshire East Consumer Protection and Investigations Team's 'Nominated Neighbour Scheme', a preventative scheme for elderly and vulnerable residents. She was the first resident to sign up to the scheme; more than 1,000 residents have now signed up to the scheme. Hughes said: "Joan stood tall and supported our department in bring known offenders to justice as well as promoting and raising awareness of a serious issue in Cheshire East."
What we can learn from themThese are inspiring stories, and show us three vital things we need to take seriously if we are to avoid becoming a victim of rogue traders. The first is to be suspicious of anyone who cold-calls. If you need work doing to your property, call three specialists yourself and get a proper quote - don't rely on the stories of those showing up at your door.
Secondly, don't let yourself give in to pressure. If in doubt, shut the door on your uninvited guests and call Trading Standards. If you are feeling vulnerable and intimidated, you can call your local police station for assistance.
And finally, if you have been duped by a con man, tell someone about it. In both these cases the victims had been ripped off, but they saw the gangs found guilty of their crimes and Gale even got all his money back. Many victims are too embarrassed to do anything. However, as the two elderly campaigners proved, it's not to late to act if you think you have been ripped off.