What is doorstep crime?
It’s where someone comes to your door and tricks you into letting them in so they can steal from you or get you to hand over money. They may pose as officials – water, gas, electricity, even the police – or try to sell you something or do a job (”do your garden, madam”, “resurface your drive” or ”you’ve got a tile missing on the roof”) or put on an act (“I’m feeling ill”) or say they’re a neighbour or a family friend. It also includes people who get you to part with money for goods or services that you never see, or charge you often extortionate amounts for shoddy goods or services.
The Police service often receives calls from members of the public complaining about the practices of certain rogue traders. Many appear to involve issues that are purely contractual matters which are not for the Police to intervene in. Some will involve breaches of laws enforced by Trading Standards. This information will clarify those rules.
What is deception?
In many cases of deception, large withdrawals of cash will be made to satisfy inflated or wholly unwarranted demands of the rogue traders. On occasion, they will physically accompany persons to the bank in an act of intimidation.
In many cases an initial ‘rip off’ will be followed by a series of instances. These can be rogue trading, outright extortion or distraction burglary by the same individuals against the same victim, or even by other 'rogue traders' whom have “bought” the details of the victim off the first offending party.
In some cases the entire life savings of a person have been stolen, having a significant detrimental effect upon their quality of life or worse. As with distraction burglary, evidence indicates significant under reporting of this category of incident.
How widespread is it?
According to official figures on Doorstep Crime, 19,000 offences against older people were reported in a single year, but the real figure is much higher. This is because many people do not report incidents, others do not even notice valuables are missing and sometimes offences are wrongly classified in Police figures. A “Help the Aged” survey in 2002 put the number of people targeted by bogus callers in the previous 12 months as high as 300,000.
In most types of crime, older people are less often the target than younger ones. but when it comes to distraction burglaries – callers who steal from people after distracting their attention – the trend is reversed and the average age of victims is 81.
What are we doing in Walsall?
We have a Joint Response Protocol with various enforcement agencies such as the Police. The protocol provides a joint rapid enforcement response to calls which appear to relate to doorstep crime incidents and which match certain attendance criteria.
- The trader/offender is still present at the householder’s home
- The trader/offender has left, but is believed to be still nearby
- The trader/offender has left, but is expected to return
- Notification by a bank or building society that an elderly/vulnerable person has been taken by a trader/offender to draw out a large amount of cash for work on their home
- The householder is particularly distressed/vulnerable and needs urgent victim support
- The trader/offender has left, but there is an urgent need to attend to secure evidence which may otherwise be lost
If the incident has already occurred and the trader has gone with no likelihood of return, the recipient service (Police or Trading Standards) will make enquiries as they deem suitable, administer to the victim’s needs, and report the incident to the other service (Police or Trading Standards).
If you, or a neighbour or relative feel you have been the target of a doorstep crime, or you are concerned about a doorstep seller / rogue trader then please contact Trading Standards for advice.
Walsall Trading Standards are located at: