1. ITV Report

Rogue trader gang targeting elderly in Plymouth and Exeter

Police are looking into four separate incidents. Photo: PA

A gang of rogue traders are targeting elderly people in Plymouth and Exeter.

Detectives are investigating a number of reports of men calling at pensioners’ homes over Easter weekend pressuring the homeowner to carry out so-called ‘essential’ work on their properties.

Victims have then been forced to pay thousands of pounds for what officers describe as "shoddy and substandard" work.

Devon and Cornwall officers are linking four offences in Plymouth in the last week and are looking into similar reports in Exeter.

Last Saturday, three men called at the home of a woman in her 70s in Prince Rock, Plymouth, demanding payment for repair work after claiming a roof tile had slipped and caused damage to a neighbouring garage. The woman was intimidated into paying £2,000 - the gang even ordered her a taxi to take her to the bank.

The day before, the same tactic was used on an elderly man in the same area. A man, also in his 70s, was pressured into having his roof fixed by men cold calling at his door. The next day a man claiming to be from environmental health returned saying that his roof disrepair had caused extensive damage to a neighbouring property. He demanded £5,000 but the victim could only give £2,000

Several of the incidents have taken place in Prince Rock, Plymouth. Credit: Google Earth

A third victim was targeted between Thursday 13 April and Saturday 15 April when a man knocked on an elderly couple’s door and offered to do work on the guttering. They felt pressured into agreeing to the work and paid £2,000, three times the cost of what the work should be.

Three men also called at the home of a 74-year-old woman in Peverell on Saturday 15 April saying that her chimney was dangerous and needed fixing. They commenced work and the victim transferred £5,100 to their bank account. The men were ‘called away’ to another job and didn’t return, leaving ladders and other equipment behind.

A gang of rogue traders are targeting elderly people in Plymouth and Exeter. Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police

Bogus callers and rogue traders often prey on elderly and the vulnerable people, taking advantage of their trusting nature. We know that this type of crime is significantly under-reported and would therefore urge the public to be very wary of cold callers, not to pay any money to such traders and to report any suspicious activity immediately. Legitimate callers will not mind if you shut and lock the door while you verify that they are genuine.

We are also asking neighbours and family of elderly people to be mindful of these incidents and to raise any concerns about unscheduled building or maintenance work happening at their properties.

– Detective Sergeant Phil Prior, Plymouth CID

Do you recognise the description of these men?

  • Man #1 - white, mid-30s, 5ft 6ins, large build, brown hair shaved on one side and a beard.
  • Man #2 - white, late 20s/early 30s, 5ft 7ins, slim build, fair hair.
  • Man #3 - in his late teens, 5ft 7ins, slim build, short fair hair.
  • They are believed to be travelling around the area in a blue van.

Anyone who has any information about any of the offences is asked to call 101, quoting crime reference CR/028963/17. For advice on how to protect yourself against doorstep crime, the police have some advice.