• Posted by Steve Playle Wednesday Jul 19, 2017

Heroes recognised for tackling rogue traders

I recently returned from venturing north of Watford Gap for the annual Chartered Trading Standards Institute conference. It was, in fact, a long way north of Watford Gap – Harrogate in North Yorkshire to be precise. The weather was appalling with heavy rain every day and temperatures a good ten degrees below those in London.
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 Despite the chilly weather, my heart was warmed  with stories of heroism from two individuals who  have done more than most to stand up to rogue  traders.  The first hero is Geraldine Maclaine, a  volunteer from North-East London who has  campaigned for increased protection for  pensioners and disabled people from doorstep  criminals and bogus callers.  Geraldine leads the  ‘Old Protection Scheme’ and has advised  hundreds of vulnerable people on personal  security, enabling them to continue to live in their own homes.  The London Borough of Redbridge scheme - which is supported by Age UK, Victim Support, Meals on Wheels and police - is also credited with a reduction in doorstep crime.  She was inspired to start the scheme in 2011 after visiting the victims of crimes and hearing how devastating the impacts of scammers can be.  By playing people a video that shows on old lady being conned, Geraldine helps raise awareness of what signs to look out for to see if scammers are targeting them.

The second hero is a Trading Standards Officer who introduced a new banking protocol that helps people who are being ripped off by doorstep criminals.  David Turner was behind the London Borough of Havering model, which, in its first four months, helped save vulnerable pensioners £1 million and enabled the Metropolitan Police to make 14 arrests right across London.  Those arrested were cold calling home maintenance traders who exploit vulnerable consumers by claiming that unnecessary work is needed on their property and who then go on to charge extortionate fees for work of an appalling standard.   The protocol works by training bank staff to look out for unusual customer behaviour and to tactfully ask questions about the reason for the withdrawal.  Bank staff then summon swift police support by dialling 999 and disclosing a password – as they did when a 95 year-old-man tried to withdraw £3,000 for house repairs.

Both Geraldine and David received their coveted hero awards in front of a packed conference audience and they are to be applauded.  The reality is that we can all be heroes in our own communities.  We just need to keep an eye on our neighbours and report anything suspicious to Trading Standards by calling 03454 04 05 06.  As I have been saying for some time now, the intelligence provided by our communities is absolutely vital in the battle against doorstep crime.