THREE high profile prosecutions in three months signal the start of a fightback against those who prey on the elderly, according to trading standards investigators.
The demise of three firms and conviction of seven director sends a clear message from the scambusters: “We will come after you.”
And it is hoped that, with more people aware of conmen’s tactics, fewer victims will fall prey.
Graham Morgan, Derbyshire County Council trading standards manager, said: “It’s a very big problem, but we hope the publicity will mean it is harder to take advantage of unsuspecting people.
“We’ve had quite a lot of information from ex-employees who have quit because of disreputable tactics.
“We hope this starts to turn the tide.”
Complaints to the council soared from 46 in 2005/6 to 638 in 2009/10, but are falling this year.
Mr Morgan said rogue firms used special lists with addresses of adults over 60.
Sales people cold-called claiming to be running a ‘survey’, with some claiming to be from the NHS or social services. But once they had an appointment the hard-sell started - and lasted up to four hours.
The first hour was spent ‘making friends’, Mr Morgan said.
General questions about hobbies, family and medication would be asked and the sales rep would visit the bathroom to see if the customer used aids or had an ailment they could exploit.
He added: “It’s pure, cold-hearted commerciality.”
Prices would start high but discounts would be offered, provided a purchase was made that day.
But the lower price would still be a rip-off.
The Office of Fair Trading is investigating the mobility market. It is set to report in September whether new laws are needed to crack down on scammers and protect the vulnerable.