Episode 10 Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen


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Episode 10

Hidden-camera series. Pretend rogue plumber Roger plants muddy mushrooms in an airing cupboard to set up a toxic-mould scam. Will the client fall for his fungal fraud?


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Transcript


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We're all under pressure to make our money go further and further,

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so what's worse than something going wrong with our home? Last year we spent £15 billion on repairs.

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But who can tell for sure that we've not been taken for a ride?

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-It's 475 in all.

-350 quid?

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You're joking.

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Probably about seven-and-a-half grand.

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Thanks to audacious secret filming, we'll demonstrate how easy it is to be ripped off in your own home.

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-I'm afraid you've been ripped off. He's not a bona fide tradesman.

-Really?

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It's a lot of money for 10 minutes.

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-Were they set up as well?

-No!

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And we show the consequences of some truly shocking tradesmen rip-offs.

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There's cowboys in every business. I was unlucky.

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Having no roof is horrific, really.

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I just couldn't believe it. I was totally devastated.

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Coming up on today's show:

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watch as our acting rogue, Roger, faces his toughest consumer yet.

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Will he con this businessman out of hundreds for drainage repairs?

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-He's looking very upset about it.

-Not happy.

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The heartless West Midlands cowboy who drove off with a pensioner's savings after a driveway con.

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None of the work he carried out appeared competent.

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And a no-nonsense East Ender seems to be falling for Roger's money-spinning tricks,

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but she's getting suspicious.

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'They just seem strange.'

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She thinks they're cowboys.

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These are the dirty tricks of the tradesmen.

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I don't know a huge amount about trades like roofing or plumbing.

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That's why we rely on tradesmen and we expect them to do a good job.

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The vast majority of them do exactly that. Only a small minority give tradesmen a bad name.

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Today we're meeting people who've been ripped off by the cowboys.

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And with your help we'll show how easy it is to fall for the oldest tricks in the tradesmen's books.

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People have been setting up friends and relatives for a visit from our very own tradesman. Why?

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To show you how to avoid being taken to the cleaners.

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So allow me to present Roger Bisby.

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A builder with more than 40 years' experience, he's forgotten more than you or I could ever learn.

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But we're asking Roger to change tack just for today and go against his deeply-held beliefs.

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He's going to play a dodgy tradesman and show us how not to get conned.

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We've set up a few minor household problems so that Roger can fix them.

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He'll be working with our cameraman, Luke, who'll act as an apprentice so they can film everything in secret.

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In a moment, we'll find out where they'll play their first dirty tricks.

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Many rogues turn minor household issues into massive con tricks.

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Something as simple as mould, keeping your home dry and well ventilated will stop it.

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Roger's visiting a mould-free household to see if he can trick the owners to think they have a problem.

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Mum-of-two Sabrina Scarborough lives in East London.

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She's asking her best friend Nicola to house sit for her.

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I've known her since I was about nine. She's a bit gullible.

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She's a bit cautious, a bit nosy. So she would inquire into what is going on.

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Sabrina tells Nicola that there is a weird smell in her airing cupboard

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and a tradesman is coming to check it out. What will this feisty East Ender make of Roger and Luke

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-and their fake mould?

-I've got some fancy mushrooms and some food colouring.

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We'll paint these a greener colour to make them more realistic.

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-And mix it up with soil as well.

-We won't get a couple of hundred quid for taking out those,

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so we need more devices to add value to it.

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So Roger's also brought along a cheap fan heater, which he'll pretend is a dehumidifier,

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and moisture-absorbing crystals. With the mushrooms marinating in the mud and food colouring,

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they're all set.

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When Roger places that fake fungus in the airing cupboard,

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he'll then try some scare tactics to make Nicola think there's a big outbreak of toxic mould.

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He'll also overcharge for the dehumidifier and the crystals.

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He won't be sucking any moisture out of the flat, just a few hundred pounds out of Nicola. The rotter!

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Damp-absorbing crystals can be picked up in most DIY stores and Roger's entire outlay for this scam

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is less than £20, but he's hoping to charge at least £200 - a ten-fold price hike.

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When Roger and Luke pitch up,

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Nicola is safely installed at Sabrina's, ready to supervise.

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-Which way, mate? Oh, is it you?

-Is it for the water thing?

-Yes.

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-Hello. Are you Sabrina?

-No, I'm Sabrina's friend.

-Great. All you need is one good friend.

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-It's up here.

-Hmm, Nicola isn't asking for ID, breaking the first rule and just asking for trouble.

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The airing cupboard is on the upstairs landing.

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There you go. This is the tank.

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We'll just get a few tools in.

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She's a nice lady, as they all tend to be.

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Very trusting. She's left us to it. We've had a look at the scene of the crime that's about to be committed.

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Nothing much going on really, but we'll make something of it.

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We've got our magic mushrooms, so we'll plant those in there, then discover them.

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-Sorry. We locked ourselves out.

-Magic mushrooms? I hope they're not hallucinogenic! Nicola won't see

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as she's on the phone - a perfect moment to set this up and sneak his exotic fungus into the cupboard.

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Eeew.

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Oh, there's a spot round there.

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-OK, right. I can smell something here.

-It's quite whiffy, isn't it?

-Yeah.

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-Nicola...

-Time to bring in Nicola to catch a whiff of the problem.

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I can smell something up here. Just, just, just...

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What is supposed to be the problem?

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It's supposed to be very damp. There's a lot of mustiness and all this mouldiness.

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-We get used to the smells...

-It smells dampish.

-Smell it?

-Yeah.

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-Have a sniff in there.

-I'm not sticking my head in there.

-OK.

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-I'll get the danger money.

-You're so brave(!)

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-Where is the toxic mould?

-Eew!

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Eew, there's something in here.

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-What's in there?

-I dunno.

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Ah! Good luck to you!

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-No, no, don't go away! I might need you.

-You can take it...

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Where's the bin? Here, look.

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Ohh(!)

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Oh, my God. Look.

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-What is it?

-I dunno.

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-Did you put that in there?

-No...

-Rewind the tape!

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I want to hear that again, Nicola. You questioned him.

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-What is it?

-I dunno.

-Did you put that in there?

-No.

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We wouldn't put that in there. I don't know what to do with it. I'll take it down to the bin.

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-Put it in your bag and you can put it in the bin.

-That's right, you tell him.

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So how on earth will Roger turn these cheap tricks to his advantage?

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I want to leave this dehumidifier going to get rid of the moisture.

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But could Roger and Luke's act be wearing thin?

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'They just seem...strange.'

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She thinks they're cowboys.

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Whoops. Maybe Roger's been rumbled. One of the most common scams involves driveways and tarmac.

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The consumer in our next story must have felt very relieved

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when this West Midlands cowboy felt the long arm of the law.

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Out of the darkness cometh light.

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That's the motto of Wolverhampton City Council. It's a fine sentiment,

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but unfortunately for local residents, also out of the darkness came the swindler Stacy Handley.

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He was a prolific driveway rogue. Every piece of work he did in some way went wrong.

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And he made no attempt to put it right.

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Handley was famous in Wolverhampton for driveway scams.

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His company offered tarmac coatings at low prices, but the quality of work left a lot to be desired.

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They were installed quickly, cheaply and without proper foundations or borders. Cracks soon appeared

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and weeds broke through, turning his dream driveways into nightmares.

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Even after he realised we were investigating, he still continued to commit offences.

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In fact, the last job he did, he started two days before he was due in court.

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He seemed to have no sense of danger at all.

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In common with many villainous tradesmen, he sought out vulnerable citizens.

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People like 89-year-old Alfred Thomas.

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Stacy Handley was a very pleasant man, very charming, really.

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He was plausible. I'm usually a good judge of character,

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being in business over 50 years.

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I was getting the car out one morning

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and he came along the street and asked me if I wanted a drive done.

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Alfred was impressed by the smooth talking and a dossier of impressive leaflets and brochures

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with the company name. On paper, he seemed to have a raft of satisfied customers

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and impressive driveways. What Alfred didn't realise was these were all part of the trick.

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The only problem with the leaflets was the work looked wonderful, but he hadn't done any of it.

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It was all carried out by proper businesses. He found the pictures on the internet.

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Alfred didn't find that out until much later. Handley's van was labelled up with impressive signs

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and an 0800 telephone number, giving all the indications of a large and reputable company.

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He was so persuasive that Alfred agreed to employ him at once,

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without thinking things over or getting other quotes. As Peter Calvert says, this is rarely wise.

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Cancellation rights say that where you cold call somebody or visit them at home,

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you have to give them a written notice that says how they can cancel.

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You're not supposed to start work until that period's expired.

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What some people do is try to get people to sign a waiver saying start immediately.

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If someone does that, be suspicious. It probably won't be very good.

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He quoted me £1,400 to do it.

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So I said, "No, I can't afford that."

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And he went down... down to £1,000, eventually.

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And so I said, "Oh, yes, all right. I'll do it, then."

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So he came the next morning and started to do it.

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Handley's company offered a guarantee of 8 years.

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Convinced he had a good deal, Alfred watched his 50-year-old drive being transformed

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with sparkling new tarmac. Then after just a few hours, Handley pulled the old trick

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and demanded more money.

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He said, "If you want a chemical in to stop the weeds coming through,

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"it'll be another £150."

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So I said, "I don't want the weeds to come through, so you'd better do that."

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When he'd finished, he took me to the building society to get the money out.

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And...they went.

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It was only when the rogues had dropped him home £1,150 poorer

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that the awful reality of their work dawned on him.

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I wasn't particularly happy with it,

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but I thought perhaps it would settle down.

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But it didn't settle down and in a fortnight there was growth coming through,

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grass, weeds and all sorts. There were ripples in the surface of the drive.

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And water was lying in the dents.

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A shrub has broken through the tarmac.

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Just broken the tarmac up.

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You could feel the ripples where the water lies, all up and down the drive.

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The growth that was coming through is all along the border.

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Right down to the garage.

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He also moved this pillar. It's not upright at all.

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It's all on the skew.

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With water collecting on the uneven tarmac, it was clear there were no firm foundations.

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And the cheeky £150 for that weed-proof coating hadn't stopped the weeds at all.

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Alfred challenged the tradesman to return and put things right.

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When the weeds started to come through, I rang him up and he said, "I'll come and have a look today."

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But he never came. So I rang several times and he didn't come.

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So I wrote a letter.

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I didn't get any reply to the letter.

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So a kind neighbour

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from across the road from me said, "I'll go and find the address."

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It turned out that the address was fake. It was a private home

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belonging to a woman who had no connection to Handley.

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Alfred now feared the worst - that he'd been tricked and lost his £1,150 for good.

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The only option left was to report the matter to Trading Standards.

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A common complaint was people parked their car for the first time and it sank into the driveway.

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-His advice was don't park it in the same place twice.

-An expert who reviewed Handley's work stated:

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Handley pleaded guilty to 71 charges of fraud against 31 victims.

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Between them they had paid him a shocking £57,000

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for tarmac driveways that succumbed to cracks, weeds and water holes.

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We were very lucky in this case. A number of people, including Mr Thomas, gave very good statements

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showing they'd been ripped off, so we got him in prison for 18 months.

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Unfortunately for Alfred Thomas and the other victims, the conviction was a bittersweet victory.

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We put in compensation claims between £35,000 and £40,000.

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The court didn't award anything as he only had £5 in his bank account.

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For those people, their money's gone. They're not going to get it back.

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Oh, I felt very angry. Very angry.

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Because I've been in business for over 50 years

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and I always treated my customers fairly.

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And I expected to be treated the same.

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So I was very angry when I found out I had been done.

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Later, another extraordinary story of a rogue tradesman banged up in South London

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for some of the dirtiest tricks imaginable.

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He said I'd got a dead squirrel up there. It would be another £2,000.

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But our rogues meet a strong-minded consumer from Essex who gives them a rough ride

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-over their plans to overcharge.

-How about 350? Mates' rates.

-I still think it's a lot.

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Now back to East London where Nicola is house-sitting and Roger is playing his messy tricks.

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Nicola's keeping an eye on Roger while her friend, Sabrina, pops out.

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He's used mud, mushrooms and food colouring to concoct a handful of sopping wet fungus,

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which he hid in the airing cupboard. By pulling it out in front of Nicola he wants to scare her into thinking

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-it's toxic mould.

-Eew!

-Did you put that in there?

-No!

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-What do you mean?!

-You put that...

-To wind you up? Don't be ridiculous.

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So far, Nicola's keeping an open mind, but Roger has more tricks to play to make her part with money.

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There's been a bit of a leak from the tank, I think.

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I think there might be a leak under the tank. It's mouldiness growing.

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It's a mouldy, stringy, fungus-y... Eew. Makes you feel funny just touching it.

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I'll just get rid of it.

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OK, we got a bit of a reaction there. We discovered the fungus lurking behind the cold water tank.

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Actually, she suggested that I'd put it in there!

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Where would she get an idea like that from? She's probably been watching too much television.

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But now... my strategy is now

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to introduce a few dehumidifiers into the equation

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and start to get a little bit of hi-tech stuff in there to charge for.

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Roger may think he's hoodwinked her, but Nicola is no fool.

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She's on the phone to Sabrina with concerns about the tradesmen.

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'They just seem strange.'

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Is it?

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She thinks they're cowboys

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and they're pulling out all these different things that she thinks they have put there.

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She thinks they're taking the Mick.

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Watch out, Roger. He mentioned a dehumidifier, which is just an old fan heater.

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He also has moisture traps which can be picked up for less than £20.

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He's hoping to make more than £200 from these tricks, a 1,000% price hike.

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I can't wait to see what Nicola makes of this jumble.

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We'll get rid of the humidity here.

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We'll sanitise the area.

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Stick that in over there, mate. Stick it on... on the dehumidifying.

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Stick it on dehumidify? You're having a laugh, aren't you?

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Oh, that's much nicer.

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Straight away.

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OK. You all right? What we'll do is leave this dehumidifier going.

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I want to leave this dehumidifier going to get rid of the moisture and mould in the air.

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We'll stick moisture traps in the back to dry it all out.

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These also take the odour away.

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-Will that stop the leak?

-Yeah, yeah. I've done that. It was just a small nut so I've done that.

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Nicola isn't showing much interest in what they're doing.

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I bet she'd rumble straight away that it isn't a dehumidifier. Let's hope it doesn't cost her dear.

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We've set the dehumidifier going and put humidity traps in.

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How long's that going to run for?

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A dehumidifier? You could just run it today for...

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It's very low. Just leave it. It's part of the kit. They can use it.

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Hmm, Nicola's suspicious and it's great to see her asking questions

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rather than meekly accept his manky old waffle, but her biggest test will come with the bill.

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It can't be long now.

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In the winter, if moisture starts to build up, it's best to have one.

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You can just run it for a few hours, then switch it off. But we've got rid of that anyway,

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-so all we need really for that is 175 quid for the call out and...

-175?

-175, yeah. Cash.

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That's 175 for some mushrooms and an old fan. She's not really going to pay him, is she?

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Nicola has let a dodgy plumber into her friend's house. She was suspicious of the mushroom mixture,

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and called Sabrina to check on him. When he lied about fixing a leak, she didn't check

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and she's taken little interest in his gadgets. Now he's poised to overcharge for them.

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-You're going for the cash? 175.

-There's 180 there.

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-She'll want her fiver.

-I'll get it.

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Oh, Nicola. You were doing so well.

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-Sorry, it's all I've got. I haven't got any notes.

-That's all right.

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I'm not sure getting your change back will make up for it.

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Thank you. Have a nice day.

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So £175 handed over for messing around with mushrooms and leaving an old fan heater.

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That's still a price hike of more than 750%.

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You'd better make tracks before she realises she's been conned.

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With the rogues out of sight, our producer must reveal the truth about Roger's tricks to Nicola.

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Hello. Hi, there. I wonder if I could have a quick word. We're from the BBC.

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We've been doing some investigations of various tradesmen.

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-OK. What do they look like?

-Em, the older guy... is slim build, he's got fair hair.

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He's usually with a younger guy with dark hair.

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But it's not my flat. I don't wanna...say, you know.

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You know what, I don't want to sound funny, but I rung my mate and said, "Hurry up and come back."

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They didn't seem right to me, you know.

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And once... I know this sounds really bad, but one seemed too posh to be a plumber.

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I wish you'd knocked on the door while they were here.

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I think Nicola's suffered enough. Time for Sabrina to come clean and return the cash.

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- You got pranked! - I told you! What did I say?!

0:23:250:23:30

You are such a BLEEP!

0:23:300:23:32

I said to her, "You've got to come!" BLEEP

0:23:320:23:36

'When Roger arrived,'

0:23:360:23:38

I didn't think they looked much like real tradesmen. I thought they looked maybe...slightly odd.

0:23:380:23:46

- And you paid them. - I made them give me £5 change.

0:23:460:23:51

£5?

0:23:510:23:52

I thought it was a lot of money, but then I had my suspicions they were scamming

0:23:520:23:58

and didn't believe they'd fixed what the problem was.

0:23:580:24:02

-You should give me the money!

-I've got to give it back to you.

-Yeah.

-Legally speaking.

0:24:020:24:08

'I was surprised to be scammed, you know.'

0:24:080:24:13

My advice to anyone watching would be that if any tradesmen come, make sure they show proper ID.

0:24:130:24:19

If you've got any suspicions about them, call the company that they're supposed to be from

0:24:190:24:25

just to verify that they are who they're supposed to be.

0:24:250:24:29

Thanks for helping us out, Nicola. But what should you do in that situation to avoid a con?

0:24:290:24:36

Keep a close eye on anyone who works on your house to be sure they behave.

0:24:360:24:41

Always ask lots of questions and if you have the slightest instinct of suspicious behaviour,

0:24:410:24:47

contact Trading Standards for advice.

0:24:470:24:51

Making this programme, we've heard stories of cowboys planting all kinds of props for their tricks,

0:24:530:24:59

like planks of rotten wood or strips of burnt wire.

0:24:590:25:03

In a moment we'll see a real-life instance of a tradesman trying to fake a squirrel infestation.

0:25:030:25:09

First, Roger tries his own version of that.

0:25:090:25:13

Today Yvonne Wayne is setting up her boss, Peter Stoburgh, a businessman in Essex.

0:25:140:25:21

I've worked for Peter for three years. I'm always telling him not to be too gullible.

0:25:210:25:27

He's forever listening to sales people and believing what they say.

0:25:270:25:33

Some people are not as nice as he is and he needs to be a bit careful.

0:25:330:25:38

Yvonne works in Peter's car repair workshop, built beside his home.

0:25:380:25:42

She's told him the toilets there keep getting blocked

0:25:420:25:46

and she's called in tradesmen.

0:25:460:25:49

Unfortunately, it's Roger and Luke.

0:25:490:25:52

They're going to trick him into thinking the blockage is caused by burrowing squirrels.

0:25:520:25:58

-What have you got to help us?

-We've got some smoke grenades and a foam expander gun,

0:25:590:26:05

-to plug up all the gaps.

-Well, actually they're not in there.

0:26:050:26:09

But we've got to convince the victim that they are in there.

0:26:090:26:14

To help, we have squirrel droppings and a little bit of squirrel fur.

0:26:140:26:18

Extraordinary. To convince Peter his drains are blocked with squirrels,

0:26:180:26:24

Roger will plant fake droppings and fur. There are no squirrels.

0:26:240:26:28

He'll also try to overcharge Peter for a smoke treatment to drive them out and for expanding foam.

0:26:280:26:35

Of course, there are no squirrels,

0:26:350:26:38

so you can rest assured there will be lots of flannel with the facts.

0:26:380:26:42

Roger's expecting a whopping £500 for this.

0:26:430:26:47

That's around four times the normal fee he'd get for unblocking a drain.

0:26:470:26:53

They arrive just after 11 o'clock.

0:26:530:26:55

Let's go, daddio.

0:26:550:26:57

While they wait for Peter, they look for somewhere to plant evidence.

0:26:570:27:02

-Hello.

-Whoops! Too late.

0:27:040:27:07

-Almost caught red-handed there.

-I won't shake your hand.

0:27:070:27:11

That's my assistant. I won't shake your hand. Obviously, they've been in horrible places.

0:27:110:27:17

Peter hasn't checked their ID because he thinks Yvonne hired a reputable tradesman.

0:27:170:27:23

But he has been checking if the drains are blocked. Uh-oh.

0:27:230:27:27

-There's an inspection thing that I've tried to rod.

-Yeah?

0:27:270:27:31

It's like a sealed pipe that goes down there.

0:27:330:27:38

That sounds a bit technical. The last thing our trickster wants is a have-a-go consumer

0:27:380:27:43

-who knows what he's talking about.

-At the end of the pipe is a screw cap. I put my steam cleaner up it.

0:27:430:27:50

-It never seems to back up.

-It doesn't sound like Peter is convinced there's a problem at all.

0:27:500:27:56

-I flushed it this morning.

-OK.

0:27:560:27:59

The squirrels are on hold for now. Roger heads off on a fact-finding mission.

0:28:010:28:07

Peter thinks he wants to know more about the drainage system,

0:28:070:28:11

but Roger's really trying to get to know this consumer's weakness.

0:28:110:28:15

It only happens once in a blue moon. I don't understand.

0:28:150:28:19

And it was time well spent. Peter might be missing an air vent -

0:28:190:28:24

information that could come in very handy later on.

0:28:240:28:28

But he's also learnt something he's less happy about.

0:28:280:28:32

I've just been chatting to him. He put the drains in himself.

0:28:320:28:36

He knows this system backwards.

0:28:360:28:39

He says he's getting no problem. We'll play it by ear.

0:28:390:28:42

Peter seems so clued up, there's a chance he may not fall for any of Roger's tricks,

0:28:420:28:48

so our rascal adapts his plans.

0:28:480:28:51

That missing air vent has given him an idea.

0:28:510:28:55

If this is blocked up a little bit and it builds up,

0:28:550:28:59

it's got nowhere to go. If it had an air inlet at the end of it,

0:28:590:29:04

it would allow it to come through.

0:29:040:29:07

So an unnecessary ventilation pipe is the new dirty trick.

0:29:070:29:11

It may just reap some rewards.

0:29:110:29:14

-It would just allow that equalisation of pressure.

-Like in my loft.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:29:140:29:21

-Valve talk. Fascinating(!)

-I think you've done a good job,

0:29:210:29:26

-but it's just that last bit where the vent pipe goes.

-It's been like this for 30 years.

0:29:260:29:33

Yeah. There's probably something in there, which just... A bit of blockage, or rats.

0:29:330:29:39

It's been wonderful watching our rat Roger cope with such a knowledgeable consumer.

0:29:390:29:44

So will Peter be sucked in by any of Roger's tricks?

0:29:460:29:49

-Take it down.

-Yee-ha!

0:29:490:29:52

Smokin'!

0:29:520:29:54

And how will he react when Roger presents him with the bill.

0:29:540:29:59

-He's upset.

-He's not very happy.

0:29:590:30:02

I love it when consumers fight back.

0:30:060:30:08

Roger's squirrel trick may seem far-fetched, but it's based on a shocking fraud in Kent.

0:30:080:30:15

The good news is the fraudster concerned didn't get away with his rotten plan. He was banged up.

0:30:150:30:22

South-east London has lived in fear of the Vincent family for some time.

0:30:240:30:29

Trading Standards have been watching them very closely for years

0:30:290:30:33

after two Vincent brothers were convicted of fraud against elderly consumers in 2011.

0:30:330:30:39

But this time it was cousin Amos Vincent who, in November, 2010, scammed an 82-year-old grandmother.

0:30:390:30:46

Clive Watts at Bexley Trading Standards investigated his stomach-churning cons.

0:30:460:30:52

Rogue traders will use any tactic to get householders to agree

0:30:540:31:00

to have work done. If necessary, they will use scare tactics to get them to pay even more money.

0:31:000:31:06

In this case, the victim was so distressed at being manipulated

0:31:060:31:11

that she's asked us to disguise her identity, so we're going to call her Mrs Smith.

0:31:110:31:17

But she was keen to discuss the schemes the conmen used in order to warn other consumers.

0:31:170:31:23

A man came to the door and said I'd got problems with my roof.

0:31:230:31:29

It needed doing urgently, but he'd need £1,500 to get the materials.

0:31:290:31:34

Conmen tend to pick on roofing work because most householders are unfamiliar with the roof condition

0:31:340:31:40

and the older, more vulnerable householder is even less likely to know if it needs doing.

0:31:400:31:46

He said the beam along the side of the house had gone.

0:31:460:31:50

That worried me because I felt the beam was an important part of it.

0:31:500:31:55

If that had gone, I've got to get something done.

0:31:550:31:59

We went out into the back garden

0:32:000:32:02

so that he could show me where there was a dip in the roof.

0:32:020:32:07

The beam at the back had also gone.

0:32:070:32:10

That worried me that it was as bad.

0:32:100:32:13

Mrs Smith was so concerned that she paid him the full £1,500 in cash.

0:32:140:32:19

She'd fallen for his first dirty trick of scare tactics and not asked for a quote or receipt.

0:32:190:32:26

Now sensing an even bigger payout, this crook knew how to turn up the pressure on an elderly woman

0:32:260:32:33

who was alone and worried about the state of her roof.

0:32:330:32:36

The next morning I answered the door to a second man who said he'd been asked to look inside the loft.

0:32:390:32:45

I took him upstairs and he pulled down the loft ladder.

0:32:450:32:49

I came down and left him to it.

0:32:490:32:51

He came down from the loft and said his boss wanted to speak to me.

0:32:510:32:57

The boss said that there was more work to be done than he had thought

0:32:570:33:02

and also I'd got a dead squirrel up there.

0:33:020:33:05

So the whole loft would have to be fumigated because there would be maggots all over the place.

0:33:050:33:12

He said it would be another £2,000.

0:33:120:33:14

Another £2,000. Now that's a dirty trick - inventing an even bigger problem to push up the cost.

0:33:140:33:22

The fact that I'd got this dead squirrel up in the roof and all these maggots,

0:33:220:33:28

it made me feel terrible. I'd got to get rid of that as soon as possible.

0:33:280:33:33

These men, they tell consumers that more and more work needs done.

0:33:330:33:38

They keep inventing new things wrong with the roof. On this occasion, they threw in a dead squirrel.

0:33:380:33:45

It's all designed to increase the pressure on the consumer and get them to pay more and more.

0:33:450:33:52

Although I have a pull-down loft ladder, I do find it very difficult to get up into the roof.

0:33:520:33:58

The work had to be done and so I agreed to pay the extra money.

0:33:580:34:02

Terrified at the idea of her roof crashing down around her,

0:34:020:34:07

the conman had caught his victim in a web of lies,

0:34:070:34:11

but this devious rogue hadn't allowed for outside intervention when Mrs Smith went to her bank.

0:34:110:34:18

The young counter clerk was suspicious because I'd already drawn out one lot of money.

0:34:180:34:25

She went to get a senior colleague who told me

0:34:250:34:28

not to take out the money and she would contact Trading Standards.

0:34:280:34:34

We received a telephone call from a local bank who told us their customer had called in

0:34:340:34:41

to collect a significant amount of cash for some building work for which she had no paperwork.

0:34:410:34:48

It all sounded very suspicious, so we came along to investigate.

0:34:480:34:52

We went round to the house and there didn't appear to be anything wrong with the roof whatsoever.

0:34:520:34:58

No rotten timbers, certainly no squirrels and no sign of any work having been carried out.

0:34:580:35:04

A classic, shocking scam deceiving an elderly woman out of her savings.

0:35:040:35:09

Sadly, Mrs Smith had already lost £1,500, but the quick-thinking bank clerk

0:35:090:35:16

meant that Trading Standards and the police could spring a trap

0:35:160:35:20

for when the rogue workmen came back for the extra £2,000.

0:35:200:35:24

He came in towards the front door and I was told I mustn't, on any account, answer the door.

0:35:240:35:30

He was ringing the bell really hard.

0:35:300:35:33

The man was arrested and there was little surprise as to who he was.

0:35:330:35:38

He turned out to be Amos Vincent, part of a family causing problems of this type in south-east London

0:35:380:35:44

and north-west Kent and were known to police and Trading Standards.

0:35:440:35:48

Amos Vincent was sentenced to 40 months in prison for fraud in February, 2011.

0:35:480:35:54

Mrs Smith regrets handing over the £1,500 without a receipt

0:35:540:35:58

and without getting other quotes, but these are mistakes she's determined not to make again.

0:35:580:36:05

I've learnt never to trust anybody that calls at the door saying that something wants doing

0:36:050:36:11

and only to use builders or other workmen that are recommended.

0:36:110:36:15

Good advice. And don't forget, Trading Standards respects your confidentiality

0:36:180:36:24

so there's nothing to fear by reporting rogue activity.

0:36:240:36:28

You could be stopping another consumer from becoming a victim. Now what about Peter in Essex?

0:36:280:36:34

Roger was hoping to trick him into thinking squirrels had blocked his drains so he could overcharge him,

0:36:340:36:41

but he's turned out to be a sharper consumer than anyone thought.

0:36:410:36:46

-Whack it through.

-It never seems to back up.

0:36:460:36:51

After an hour of debate, Roger's trying to adapt his plan by fitting an unnecessary air vent pipe

0:36:510:36:57

for which he'll crank up the bill. But Peter needs convincing that there's anything wrong at all.

0:36:570:37:03

Which is where Roger's next trick comes in.

0:37:040:37:08

It's time for a bit of high drama. We'll introduce the smoke bomb.

0:37:080:37:12

He's just nipped up the road. As soon as he comes back,

0:37:120:37:16

we'll let the smoke bomb go and tell him it's a test.

0:37:160:37:19

They're coming back, Luke.

0:37:190:37:21

So Roger's best hope of making any kind of money is to wow Peter with a demonstration

0:37:210:37:27

-that something, anything, is wrong.

-Are they on their way?

-Now, now.

-Yeah?

0:37:270:37:32

If the smoke doesn't flow through the system properly,

0:37:320:37:36

he'll have the evidence to prove that a new air vent needs fitting.

0:37:360:37:40

Yee-ha! Smokin'!

0:37:400:37:42

Let's just go down the land drain and see if we see it come out.

0:37:440:37:48

No, nothing. We let a smoke test go and that proves it's got hydraulic pressure.

0:37:510:37:56

Hmm. First squirrels and then smoke. This is getting desperate.

0:37:560:38:01

OK. We had a good look at it. There could be tree root ingress there.

0:38:020:38:08

-But I think the only thing you can say is put a vent up the end.

-OK.

0:38:080:38:13

-Do you want us to do that or you?

-One last stab at springing the air vent trick.

-How much is it?

0:38:130:38:19

About 250.

0:38:190:38:21

Yeah?

0:38:210:38:23

-It's only a bend and a pipe.

-You forget he knows what he's talking about, Roger.

-I can do that.

0:38:240:38:31

-You don't need a degree in sanitary engineering.

-It sounds like Pete has got that degree

0:38:310:38:37

and your plan's going down the pan.

0:38:370:38:40

-What do I owe you?

-Just for today, 500 quid.

0:38:400:38:44

-If it's cash.

-How much?! For a couple of smoke bombs?

0:38:440:38:48

-If we're not going to get any work out of it, any other work.

-You really want 500 quid?

0:38:480:38:54

-Is that all right?

-It's a lot.

-Well, we just like getting a lot of money.

0:38:540:39:00

-Careful. Peter doesn't sound happy.

-Do you want to pay cash or cheque?

0:39:000:39:04

-Whatever's cheapest.

-Cash.

0:39:040:39:07

-I don't know if I've got 500.

-You almost have to admire Roger's audacity.

0:39:070:39:13

-He looks very upset.

-BLEEP

-Yeah, you would too, Roger,

0:39:130:39:17

if you were being fleeced for 500 quid.

0:39:170:39:21

I just said to him I want 500 quid and I could just see it in his face, going, "Ouch, that hurts."

0:39:240:39:31

He's gone off to get it. We might have to take some in a cheque. We live in hope.

0:39:310:39:38

Today, Peter Stoburgh let our dodgy tradesmen tackle his plumbing.

0:39:400:39:44

Roger wanted £500 for investigating the drains. Peter proved to be an on-the-ball consumer,

0:39:440:39:50

refusing to agree to any extra work.

0:39:500:39:53

Roger's spent nearly two hours on this job and needs something to show for it.

0:39:530:39:58

Will he persuade Peter to pay up?

0:39:580:40:01

-I just think that's a bit strong.

-What do you think is fair?

-I was expecting a couple of hundred.

0:40:020:40:08

-Right. You reckon 200 is fair?

-Yeah, I think it's very fair.

0:40:080:40:13

How about 350?

0:40:130:40:15

Cash. Mates' rates.

0:40:150:40:17

I still think it's a lot. I'll give you 300 cash.

0:40:170:40:21

-How about 350?

-No, 300 quid.

-300?

0:40:210:40:24

Yeah, I'll get you a card.

0:40:240:40:27

-I'll give you 300 quid.

-All right.

-I think that's 100 quid more than it should be.

-All right.

0:40:270:40:33

-What a tough negotiator Peter is.

-Right. You happy with 300 quid?

-I'm not happy, but...

0:40:330:40:38

I don't want to spend the rest of the morning arguing with you.

0:40:380:40:42

That's a big old discount you got.

0:40:420:40:45

Deal done. Finally.

0:40:450:40:48

Peter put up a good fight - a lesson to us all,

0:40:490:40:53

but he's still ended up paying Roger £300 for a job, which didn't need doing.

0:40:530:40:59

-Don't shake my hand. I've been down drains.

-You're a good man.

0:40:590:41:03

Once Roger is safely out of the picture, our producer must reveal the truth to Peter about his tricks.

0:41:030:41:11

-We're from the BBC.

-Yeah?

-We're just doing some investigations in the area.

-Yeah?

0:41:110:41:17

We had some reports of various tradesmen who have not been doing very good jobs.

0:41:170:41:23

This is not because of someone that's been here, is it? I thought he was a bit expensive.

0:41:230:41:29

-Did you pay him in cash?

-I did because he wanted some cash.

0:41:290:41:34

-Yeah.

-Would you mind me asking how much it was?

0:41:340:41:38

Er, he wanted 500 quid.

0:41:380:41:41

I thought that was a rip-off.

0:41:410:41:43

It's time to reveal the part Peter's employee Yvonne played in setting him up.

0:41:430:41:49

-I don't know who this is. Do you know who this is?

-No, but you know who she is.

0:41:500:41:55

Ah... BLEEP

0:41:580:42:00

-We decided to scam you.

-'When Roger arrived,'

0:42:000:42:03

he was very friendly and helpful.

0:42:030:42:06

-My original plan was to tell you there was squirrels in your drain. Would you have gone for that?

-No.

0:42:060:42:12

I'd recommend they use someone they know or was recommended to them,

0:42:120:42:17

not somebody they don't know.

0:42:170:42:19

And get a quote before they do the job is the best answer.

0:42:190:42:24

Peter was such a good sport and it was great to see him put our rogue on the back foot.

0:42:240:42:30

Roger's only playing rogue for us

0:42:300:42:32

and you can rely on the vast majority of tradesmen being honest and hardworking.

0:42:320:42:38

The crucial thing to remember is if in doubt, keep them out.

0:42:380:42:42

I'll see you next time.

0:42:420:42:44

If you'd like to help us to reveal how easy it is to fall for the cons of rogue tradesmen

0:42:440:42:50

by sending our trickster to visit your friends or family,

0:42:500:42:55

you'll find all the details at:

0:42:550:42:58

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2011

0:43:120:43:16

Email [email protected]

0:43:160:43:19

An audacious hidden-camera series with Chris Hollins. An acting rogue tradesman tries to rip people off in their own homes using well-known con tricks to show us all how easy it can be to be taken in.

Essex businessman Peter is set up by one of his employees, who has called in Roger to investigate problem plumbing. Our pretend rogue tries to con Peter with stories of a squirrel infestation, not realising that he has a sharp-witted consumer on his hands.

Later he tries to take Nicola to the cleaners, when she house-sits for her friend in east London. He plants muddy mushrooms in the airing cupboard, to set up a toxic-mould scam, but Nicola suspects him of putting them there. Will she fall for his fungal fraud?

A pensioner reveals how he fell for the tall stories of a West Midlands conman, who used fake literature to target more than 30 victims and pocket around 57,000 pounds as part of his devious plan.