Episode 14 Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen


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Episode 14

Hidden-camera series. College lecturer Gillian from Berkshire sets up her lodger Desmond for a visit from a pretend rogue roofer, and a Hertfordshire man sets up his girlfriend.


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Transcript


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There's nothing more frustrating than when something goes wrong in your house.

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Last year, we spent £15 billion on house repairs,

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but how can we tell if we've got a good deal or if we've been taken to the cleaners?

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225? Do you want to go for 225?

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Just today, 500 quid if it's cash.

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Probably about seven and a half grand.

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We've been secretly filming up and down the UK

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and we reveal how shockingly easy it could be for you, yes, you, to be duped.

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

-He's not?

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Have I been done?

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Yeah, I've been done maybe.

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This is the bit I love. We expose the UK's most outrageous tradesmen rip-offs.

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-He didn't give a jot about his victims.

-It was such a dirty trick.

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He put my kids in danger. He ripped me off. I could kill him.

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Coming up - our rogue Roger plays dirty in Berkshire and tries to convince a no-nonsense lecturer

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to pay hundreds of pounds for a cheap gadget he doesn't even need.

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No, there is no phone number at all, no.

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The shocking story of a pensioner subjected to a horrible roofing rip-off,

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rescued at the last minute with the help of, would you believe it, his local bank.

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Something didn't seem quite right. We needed to call the police.

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I cannot believe that people will treat pensioners in this way.

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And a Hertfordshire woman gets tough with Roger's burglar alarm con,

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-but will she pay up?

-I can't afford it.

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Stand by for Dirty Tricks Of The Tradesmen.

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Hello. I don't know about you,

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

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That's why we rely on tradesmen.

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The vast majority of them are professional and hard-working,

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but a small minority give tradesmen a bad name with their dirty tricks.

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

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What's more, we'll show you how easy it is to fall for some of 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 tradesmen. Why?

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

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Meet Roger Bisby. With 40 years' experience,

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there's little he doesn't know about the building game.

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If there's one thing he doesn't like, it's con men cashing in using dirty tricks.

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But we're asking Roger to turn tricky, to become a bad apple,

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one of the dodgiest tradesmen you could ever meet. Why?

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To show you how not to get conned.

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We're setting up small property problems and sending Roger round

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to show us how easy it is to be tricked into unnecessary work.

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It's being filmed in secret and he'll work with our cameraman Luke, pretending to be his apprentice.

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We'll discover the location of their first sting in just a moment.

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Now, it's been estimated that in the UK, a home is burgled every 37 seconds.

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And it's statistics like these that rogues can use

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to persuade unwary consumers into buying costly burglar alarms.

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Roger's going to try this trick on a smart young woman in Hertfordshire.

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It's at the invitation of her boyfriend Matt Birchmore.

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His 20-year-old partner is Abby Finester, a beauty therapist.

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Abby's quite outgoing, a very bubbly person.

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I don't think she's got a great idea about DIY.

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Well, the basics, I suppose, but obviously, she'll know that she's being conned.

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Will she really? Matt and Abby's flat has a broken glass panel on the front door.

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It needs replacing, so Abby is staying in because someone is coming round to fix it - Roger and Luke.

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So the strategy is all to do with overcharging.

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Roger will fix that window for real, but he'll aim to squeeze as much cash out of Abby as possible.

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His next trick will be to play on the couple's fears about break-ins.

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He'll try to sell Abby some basic alarms for seven times what they'd cost her in the shops.

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Hopefully, her own alarm bells will start ringing.

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It's just a small door panel that's broken.

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A local glazing firm would typically charge £90 to £100 to replace it.

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Today, Roger wants to charge her at least double that. His target - £200.

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With the burglar alarms on top, it could make him a cool £300.

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It's getting late when our tricky twosome rock up.

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-Hello.

-Hello.

-Sorry we're so late.

-That's not a problem.

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Do you know why? Cos we work constantly. We never stop.

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-Tea or anything?

-You're speaking my language!

-Yeah?

-Yeah.

-Love it.

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-Sugar?

-One for me, please.

-Sugar for him, none for me, thanks.

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I'll just get a measurement here.

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It never ceases to amaze me that people let Roger in without checking his ID. He could be anyone.

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That's going to be 600 millimetres...

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..by 475.

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600 by 475. I'll go and call the glazier.

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With the door assessed, Roger orders a new window panel from a local glazier,

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but they have to collect it.

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Don't forget your tea!

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-Take them with us? We'll bring the cups back.

-Yeah.

-We'll just take the teas with us.

-All right.

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-Make sure they return those cups, Abby.

-Let's go get this glass.

-OK.

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Hot teas in hand, our cowboys pick up the replacement glass and are back with Abby in no time at all.

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Take the cups back in, Luke.

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We've got the glass, we're back in now. We're going to fit that as quickly as we possibly can.

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Thank you so much for that.

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Well, at least they brought the cups back!

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-It's laminated, this glass.

-Yeah.

-Do you know what that means...? Don't you?

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-Didn't you pay attention at school during the laminated glass lesson?

-I didn't pay attention at school.

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-What it is... You can't smash it. It's the sort of thing they use on security vans.

-Oh, right.

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-Look at this. There's two sheets of glass there.

-Yeah.

-It's got a little, thin film inside it.

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-Right.

-If you tried to kick it in, you wouldn't do it.

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Hmm, toughened glass. Abby hasn't asked for a quote yet.

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I tell you what - you can't rush a craftsman, can you?

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Yeah, especially not one who charges by the hour, eh, Roger?

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Now, this job seems to be going very smoothly.

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No sign of dirty tricks yet, but you can be sure Roger isn't going soft.

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To make laminated glass work properly, it needs to be securely held, the sides held.

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If that was loose and you kicked it in the middle, it would bend slightly.

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Abby seems quite relaxed with our cowboys.

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Unfortunately, she's about to break one of the golden rules.

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-Will you guys still be here if I nip to the shop quickly?

-Yeah.

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Abby, really!

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No matter how friendly our tradesmen may seem, you should never leave strangers alone in your house.

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You've not seen their ID. They could do anything while you're out.

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-That's great. She's left us in the house.

-All on our own.

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INTERCOM RINGS

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-That made me jump. You do it.

-Hello.

-INAUDIBLE REPLY

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Ask who she is, Luke. Don't just let any stranger in.

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Ask for her ID!

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Now, you're just going to have to spend the night out on the balcony. We've got to let this adhesive set.

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Here you are, come on. I'm only kidding you. Come in.

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Mind how you tread. I've got all this muck over here.

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-She's on the phone.

-Thank you.

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-I'll have to do something with it.

-Yeah...

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I'll go and get something to clean this lot up with.

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That's very good of you, Roger. More time on the clock and if she thinks you're doing a good job,

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she's much more likely to go for your next trick.

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-I'll do that.

-No.

-I've got to hoover anyway. The floor's terrible.

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Are you sure? I've got a portable vacuum. OK, I'll be back in a sec.

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Right, it's getting very dark in here.

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We've finished the job, we've done a great job there

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and now I just want to charge her for a couple of security devices.

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That'll up the ante for us.

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So by the time Abby pays him, in theory, that's £180 in Roger's pocket.

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So it's time to spring a really dirty trick.

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He's brought some domestic burglar alarms which cost £10 in the shops.

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He'll try to talk Abby into paying the extortionate sum of £75 for them.

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Sadly, this kind of scam is all too common.

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Now, these... It's a little alarm.

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-Right.

-If you stick that on the door, it senses vibration.

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It also senses intruders.

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-If anybody tries to get in your door, it's vibration and movement...

-Where do you put it? Just up there?

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-We can fit it for you if you want. No, it goes on the inside.

-OK.

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It'll just pick up any vibration on the frame, so if anybody tries to get in your door and in there...

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It's up to you. We just keep a few of these devices on the van.

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They're 75 quid.

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-It's up to you entirely.

-OK.

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I just thought we'd offer you that as a bit of extra security.

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Yes, Roger, secure in the knowledge that you picked them up for a tenner down the shops!

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-Let me just slice this up.

-Sorry.

-Do you want to go in with Abby?

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-Just try and sweet-talk her into buying something, Luke.

-Yeah! LAUGHTER

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I bet you've got your fingers crossed, you rascal!

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So, I wonder if Abby will fall for Roger's overcharging?

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-I'm going to go and sell one to your neighbour.

-Yeah!

-I'll charge her 200 quid.

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-What will she make of his bill for the window, worth a week's wages?

-I didn't think it'd be that much.

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Hmm, overcharging for burglar alarms.

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It may sound an unlikely dirty trick, but it really happened to some consumers in the north-east.

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The story of what this con man did and what happened to him is proof yet again that crime does not pay.

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Take a good look at Derek Hepple whose tricks and cons brought misery to a consumer in the Durham area

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and whose history of fraud dates back to 2001.

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He had a horrendous previous conviction

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where he conned an elderly mother and son

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out of over £30,000.

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After serving four years at Her Majesty's pleasure,

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Hepple's appetite for swindling the elderly remained undiminished

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as recently widowed Elizabeth Wright would discover.

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Hepple's first trick was to make friends with his potential victim.

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He was absolutely charming.

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He was very friendly, he was very well dressed.

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He was mannerly, polite

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and became a friend.

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At this point in 2007, Hepple ran a legitimate security alarm business

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in Tyne and Wear called Night And Day, not to be confused with any other companies of similar name.

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Though his operation was largely above board, Hepple found a way to trick a handful of his clients.

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Hepple targeted the elderly or vulnerable in his customer base

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and oversold and mis-sold products to them.

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In some instances, the products that Hepple was selling were 20 times over the value that you'd expect.

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Having gained Elizabeth's trust, he first saw the opportunity to rip her off

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when she mentioned her need of a stair-lift.

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He started saying, "Are you really sure you need this stair-lift?

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"Perhaps you could be better off without your stair-lift and instead have a new alarm system

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"because a new alarm system is going to be far safer for you than any stair-lift."

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Of course, it wasn't a small or cheap system.

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Hepple's men fitted burglar, carbon monoxide and smoke alarms.

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You and I can buy a couple of smoke alarms in the shops for a tenner,

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but Hepple inflated these charges to a whopping £1,500.

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Not content with leaving things there, Hepple continued to sell products to Elizabeth,

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using his whole box of treacherous tricks.

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Hepple would use jargon to sell his products.

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He made great play on a change in EU legislation, frequency changes.

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He would bamboozle his customers and tell them that their systems were breaching EU law.

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This was, in fact, a lie.

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Hepple would make his victims think they needed to take out extra insurance in the form of warranties.

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They were totally unnecessary.

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He tried to sell me a warranty for £654 or something.

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And that would be a five-year warranty.

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Then a short time later,

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I got a phone call to say he would sell me a lifetime guarantee for about twice the amount of money.

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Over the three years

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from September 2006 to October 2009,

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Derek Hepple made ten different charges to Elizabeth,

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either directly by invoice or withdrawn from her account without her knowledge.

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The grand total came to £14,996.15.

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In all, nearly 15 grand for three alarms and a couple of bits of paper.

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Disgusting!

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Hepple may have thought he was on the gravy train, but by 2009, his days were numbered.

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Another elderly victim had noticed a large hole in her bank account and contacted the police.

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She'd noticed over £15,000 had been taken electronically without her knowledge or her authorisation.

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It was clear from the transactions the monies had gone into an account in the name of Night And Day.

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Financial enquiries showed that this was an account owned and run by Derek William Hepple.

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In all, the police tracked down 15 victims.

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Many of them, like Elizabeth, hadn't even realised they'd been conned.

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The grand total that Hepple extorted from them came to £121,000.

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When the police told me what Hepple had been doing, I just couldn't believe it.

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I was totally devastated.

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I had trusted him all the time and to think that over three years,

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he had actually taken £15,000

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of my hard-earned, 40 years' working life out of my account

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and many times without me knowing,

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I just felt that he had betrayed my trust altogether!

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Following a positive ID at an identity parade, Hepple was arrested.

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And close examination of his business affairs revealed victims

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as far afield as Birmingham to the north of Scotland.

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Finally, to prove the case against Hepple, we engaged an industry expert on the matter

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who took an overview of the statements,

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invoices were recovered from either the victims or the search of the business premises,

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and essentially, this expert concluded that, in his opinion,

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the victims represented the worst case of exploitation he'd seen in 32 years

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and that Hepple was a disgrace to the intruder alarm industry.

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In May 2011, Hepple pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud 15 victims.

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His sentence was four years and eight months.

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A proceeds of crime case is attempting to recover his ill-gotten gains.

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Hepple was a callous and calculating man.

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He was able to gain the trust of his victims and betray that trust and massively overcharge them.

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Elizabeth is now getting on with her life.

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The dirty tricks played on her were devastating, but perhaps there are lessons for us all.

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Take advice before you purchase anything. Get additional quotes, an idea of what something is worth.

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Where possible, work off a recommendation.

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Check up on your bank balance and make sure you get a receipt for absolutely everything.

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Check that that's the only thing that has come out of your account,

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but do be careful because there are so many very charming rogues that come to visit.

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Later on, we have another extraordinary story

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as a Liverpool pensioner's roof is actually vandalised by tradesmen

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who then try to charge thousands of pounds for its repair.

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I wasn't to tell any neighbours, just keep it a secret between ourselves.

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Plus, our Roger tries to convince a college lecturer in Berkshire to let him fix his central heating,

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but it isn't even broken.

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-20, 40, 60, 80, one ton, yeah?

-One ton, yeah.

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First, let's see if Abby Finester from Hertfordshire falls for our rogue glazier and his dirty tricks.

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Her boyfriend Matt is on it and Roger has been trying to distract her with his builder's banter.

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You'll have to spend the night out on the balcony.

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All the while planning to charge double the going rate for replacing the broken glass in her front door.

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It gets worse. The normal price for a burglar alarm is about £10.

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He's going to ask for seven times that, but will she fall for it?

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It's just a little extra we can do while we're here if you want,

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if you want the security, the extra safety.

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-You don't want this?

-Not at the moment.

-He failed miserably.

-I can't afford it.

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It's good to see Abby side-stepping a really nasty con - a £10 alarm sold for £75.

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That would have been a £65 profit for Roger.

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-I'm going to go and sell one to your neighbour.

-Yeah.

-I'll charge her 200 quid.

-Yeah.

-OK then...

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So no extra cash there. Back to the original job.

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Can he make her pay through the nose for that window pane he fitted?

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It should cost £90 to £100, but he's aiming for double.

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How much do I owe you?

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For the glass and that, it's 175 quid if it's cash.

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A hundred and seventy-five quid?! I bet Abby didn't see that coming.

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All right. Do you want your light as well?

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Yeah, we'll take the light. Let there be light!

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Abby Finester has let a cheating glazier into her home without checking his ID.

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She left him alone while she popped out.

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He's tried and failed to sell her a cheap burglar alarm with a massive mark-up.

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Now he's trying to charge her double for his window repair because Abby didn't get a quote up front.

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So will she stand firm or pay up?

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I've only got 20-notes, so have you got any change?

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-Yeah, yeah.

-What was it? 20, 40, 60, 80... 175 you said?

-Yeah.

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-He's got change.

-Have I? I've got nothing. I spent it on fish and chips.

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-Have you got 180?

-Yeah.

-We'll get you a fiver. Don't worry. We'll take this stuff down and find a fiver.

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-Have you got any change, Luke?

-I've got three.

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See if we can get away with that - giving her three, telling her that's all we've got.

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Looks like Roger may not be finished yet. Even at this late hour,

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will he twist a few more pounds out of Abby's rapidly emptying purse?

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-We're struggling to find £5.

-175, you want five. We've got three plus a bit of shrapnel.

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Or we've got a tenner. We'll have to give you a discount or you'll have to give Luke a tip.

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-Which do you want to do?

-I didn't think it would be that much.

-All right, I'm giving you a discount.

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-Cos I like you.

-Thank you very much.

-You're a nice person. You'll be secure now.

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Nobody can kick your door in now. Have a nice evening.

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-Take care.

-You too.

-Thanks a lot, Abby. Cheers. See you, bye!

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We gave her a discount. What am I?

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With Roger out of sight, our producer knocks on the newly repaired door

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to break the news about our trickster's work.

0:20:590:21:02

KNOCKS ON DOOR

0:21:040:21:06

-Hello.

-Hello.

-Sorry to bother you.

-That's all right.

0:21:090:21:13

We're from the BBC and we've had a few reports in the area

0:21:130:21:17

-about various tradesmen who are trying to scam people in the neighbourhood.

-OK.

0:21:170:21:23

Have you had any experiences lately of that kind of thing, any plumbers, painters...?

0:21:230:21:28

I've literally just had my door done and that cost £175.

0:21:280:21:34

And I thought... My boyfriend's just gone out. He gave me 40 quid cos he didn't think it would be much more.

0:21:340:21:40

But it just cost £175.

0:21:400:21:43

I thought that was expensive, but I didn't know if it was because I'm a girl that they thought,

0:21:430:21:48

"Her boyfriend's not here, let's..." I don't know.

0:21:480:21:52

-We have had some reports and they're actually a couple of scammers basically.

-Really?

0:21:520:21:57

Oh, my word! Seriously?

0:21:570:22:00

How do you feel about that?

0:22:000:22:02

Well, that was my wages.

0:22:020:22:05

So... Oh, dear.

0:22:070:22:10

Luckily for Abby, Roger and boyfriend Matt are about to return with her wages.

0:22:100:22:15

-You have been a victim of a scam, I'm afraid.

-OK.

0:22:150:22:20

-You thought you would never see us again.

-Is that a joke?

-We've come back to haunt you.

0:22:200:22:26

-Are you joking? Oh, my God!

-BLEEP

0:22:260:22:28

You're such an idiot!

0:22:280:22:31

Oh, my word!

0:22:310:22:34

-There's your money back. You didn't give us a tip!

-I know.

0:22:340:22:37

When they first came in, they were both very welcoming, really chatty.

0:22:370:22:42

I didn't think anything funny about it. They were really nice. I made them a cup of tea.

0:22:420:22:47

-That's for you.

-Thank you.

-And you've also got your window fixed.

0:22:470:22:51

Yeah, thank you very much.

0:22:510:22:54

When I handed over the cash, I was absolutely...well, gutted because it's a lot of money.

0:22:540:23:00

If anyone else was in the same situation as me, I'd just say ask for some identification first.

0:23:000:23:07

Make sure you ask for a receipt as well and don't leave the house

0:23:070:23:11

because next time, I don't know, something could be taken.

0:23:110:23:15

Thanks very much, Abby, for helping us out. You were terrific.

0:23:150:23:20

But what should you do to avoid being the victim of a con like that?

0:23:200:23:24

For starters, leaving her home unattended was a big problem. Never do that.

0:23:240:23:30

Always think, "Why am I being offered a deal that's too good to be true?" It rarely is.

0:23:300:23:35

And never let a tradesman tackle any job without getting a written quotation.

0:23:350:23:40

Your local Trading Standards will also offer advice.

0:23:400:23:44

According to the Office of Fair Trading,

0:23:470:23:50

there were 1,000 complaints about the solar panel industry in 2009,

0:23:500:23:54

mainly to do with unfair sales tactics.

0:23:540:23:57

It's also worth thinking about the tricks rogues can play when it comes to keeping solar panels maintained.

0:23:570:24:03

Talking of which, what's Roger up to?

0:24:030:24:06

English lecturer Gillian Tunley enjoys a bohemian house share

0:24:060:24:11

with her Scottish lodger Desmond Dawson, a fellow teacher and a former RAF engineer.

0:24:110:24:18

We have a very easy-going relationship based on humour and, um...

0:24:180:24:24

We both hold the same sort of values, I guess.

0:24:240:24:28

We're both teachers, so we sing from a similar hymn sheet.

0:24:280:24:33

She hopes Desmond's engineering background won't make him too suspicious of Roger's tricks.

0:24:330:24:38

She suggested a con involving the solar panels on her roof.

0:24:380:24:42

They provide heating during the day while a range cooker heats the house at night.

0:24:420:24:47

There's a small issue with the panels and sometimes they offer no heating during the day,

0:24:470:24:52

so Roger has a perfect reason to call by.

0:24:520:24:55

-You've been shopping for something. What is it?

-I've got a cheap alarm clock.

0:24:550:25:00

It's not just an ordinary alarm clock.

0:25:000:25:03

It picks up a signal from the Meteorological Office and tells you what the weather's going to be.

0:25:030:25:09

We're going to incorporate this into the solar panel

0:25:090:25:12

and fool the householder into thinking this is telling his solar panel

0:25:120:25:17

if it's needed or not every day.

0:25:170:25:20

-How much are you hoping to get for this?

-That's cost us about 20 quid.

0:25:200:25:24

So I reckon somewhere around £200, that sort of money. Let's see what he'll go for.

0:25:240:25:29

So Roger will play two tricks today.

0:25:290:25:32

First, flannel Desmond with nonsense about the lack of hot water,

0:25:320:25:36

then try and persuade him that a special gadget is needed

0:25:360:25:40

to make sure the solar panels work better, even though it's just a cheap alarm clock costing 20 quid.

0:25:400:25:46

Gillian is at work, so Desmond is on his own at the house when Roger arrives

0:25:460:25:51

just after 11 o'clock.

0:25:510:25:54

Hello. I've come to look at the solar panels.

0:25:550:25:58

If you're just a friend, you're doing yourself a disservice there. I'm sorry.

0:26:000:26:05

Which roof is the panel on?

0:26:050:26:07

Oh, it's on the front. It's south-facing. It would be because that's where the cylinder is.

0:26:100:26:16

-Is that all right if I just go upstairs?

-Yeah, yeah.

0:26:160:26:19

Desmond seems laid-back, so laid-back that he doesn't even ask to see Roger's credentials.

0:26:190:26:25

But our man can't relax.

0:26:250:26:27

Talking to someone with engineering knowledge from the RAF, will trick number one pass muster?

0:26:270:26:34

What we've got here is the flow temperature coming down from the panel.

0:26:340:26:39

That's the return temperature.

0:26:390:26:42

If you look at them, they're the same.

0:26:420:26:44

What the problem is here, I think, is that...

0:26:440:26:49

..and that solar are basically doing the same job.

0:26:510:26:55

Basically, what should be happening is that should be switching off

0:26:550:26:59

when, um... when the solar's doing the job.

0:26:590:27:02

There should be a differential between that flow and return to make that work.

0:27:020:27:07

These need to talk to each other, so that knows that the solar is doing the job.

0:27:070:27:13

It's almost like it's taking heat and dumping it out on the roof.

0:27:130:27:17

Where do you get this nonsense, Roger? Still, Desmond's not batted an eyelid.

0:27:170:27:22

So what we need to do really is to fit a weather compensator on it

0:27:220:27:26

and it picks up a signal from the Met Office.

0:27:260:27:29

Basically, it says, "It's going to be a good day today. Don't worry.

0:27:290:27:34

-"This will take care of it." Yeah?

-Cool.

0:27:340:27:37

It'll pay for itself in no time because once that's done the job, it can't undo the job.

0:27:400:27:45

Seven o'clock in the morning, it's done the job,

0:27:450:27:49

then the solar panel's going, "What am I here for? I've nothing to do."

0:27:490:27:53

It seems the first dirty trick is working and Desmond is falling for the flannel.

0:27:530:27:58

I'll just go and get a price for that. I'll make a call and see what we can do.

0:27:580:28:03

That is definitely the way to solve it.

0:28:030:28:06

The key to the house? OK, cheers.

0:28:080:28:11

Did you hear that? You won't believe this, but Desmond's given them the house keys,

0:28:110:28:16

so they can come and go more easily. It's a nightmare. They've only just met!

0:28:160:28:21

He's gone for it. It seems that he understands there's a problem with the panel

0:28:210:28:26

and the way that it's hooked up to that boiler and now I'm going to introduce a bit of technology.

0:28:260:28:32

I've got this clock. It cost £15.

0:28:320:28:34

It receives a signal from the Met Office to tell you what the weather is.

0:28:340:28:39

It won't do anything, but I think we'll make some money on this one.

0:28:390:28:43

Time for the alarm clock or weather compensator, as Roger calls it.

0:28:430:28:48

Has anyone got any idea about how much this is going to cost?

0:28:480:28:52

What's it looking like, Roge?

0:28:520:28:55

It's got 65 on the cylinder.

0:28:550:28:58

Lads, I'll need to leave you. Believe it or not, I'm teaching at the minute on the internet.

0:28:580:29:03

Uh-oh! Not only has Desmond not asked for a quote,

0:29:030:29:07

he's leaving Roger to it while he starts an online English class.

0:29:070:29:11

The poor man is asking to be ripped off.

0:29:110:29:14

So will Desmond ever take an interest in these dodgy tradesmen?

0:29:150:29:19

-The fluid goes a bit like toffee.

-I've got to go.

-That's all right.

0:29:190:29:24

How will he react when he realises he's been conned?

0:29:240:29:28

There is no phone number at all, no.

0:29:280:29:31

We'll be back at Desmond's in just a moment, but first, a shocking story from the north-west.

0:29:350:29:41

It's only a tiny minority of tradesmen who misbehave,

0:29:410:29:44

but when they do, they can create havoc and heartache, but watch how the crooks got their just deserts.

0:29:440:29:51

In January 2011, 72-year-old Ray Wood was at home in Merseyside when there was a knock at his door.

0:29:520:29:59

Two swindlers, Amos Price and Craig Dearden, were cold-calling

0:29:590:30:03

and were about to attempt a daring and heartless fraud.

0:30:030:30:07

Rogue traders like Price and Dearden will visit areas like this.

0:30:080:30:12

They will drive up and down

0:30:120:30:15

and try and identify where people live alone.

0:30:150:30:18

I'd say the elderly are the most vulnerable.

0:30:180:30:22

When I opened the door, there was this man that I'd never seen before.

0:30:220:30:27

He said they'd done some work on the neighbour's roof and he thought

0:30:270:30:31

that my roof was in a state of bowing,

0:30:310:30:34

so could he go up and have a look?

0:30:340:30:36

And before you could say like Jack Robinson, he scrambled up.

0:30:360:30:41

It's true that bowing or sagging can occur when timbers supporting the roof have weakened.

0:30:410:30:47

This will cause the roof to dip in the middle and the tiles to slip.

0:30:470:30:51

Without giving Ray a chance to question what they were doing,

0:30:510:30:55

Price and Dearden had set their scam in motion.

0:30:550:30:58

From up on the roof, they just started to throw the ridge tiles down.

0:30:580:31:03

They were going quite near to the car. I was getting a bit worried.

0:31:030:31:08

Not taking any precautions or anything, just throwing them down ad-lib.

0:31:080:31:13

Starting a job without someone's consent

0:31:130:31:16

is one dirty trick of the fraudster all too familiar to the police.

0:31:160:31:21

There was no reason why they should have been doing this. They hadn't asked Mr Wood's permission

0:31:210:31:27

and before Mr Wood has time to think about it, Price is in his house trying to agree a price with him.

0:31:270:31:33

So after damaging Ray's roof and littering the road and garden with tiles,

0:31:330:31:38

the two scammers entered his house to discuss the cost of remedying the problem.

0:31:380:31:43

He said that his initial offer was £8,000,

0:31:430:31:47

but he could do a good deal, only for that day, at £6,000.

0:31:470:31:52

It was such a good deal that I wasn't to tell any of the neighbours or anything,

0:31:520:31:57

just to keep it a secret between ourselves.

0:31:570:32:01

It's a classic con man trick.

0:32:010:32:03

By law, we're allowed a seven-day cooling-off period for goods or services sold to us in our homes,

0:32:030:32:09

but these guys were really turning up the heat.

0:32:090:32:12

They put Mr Wood under an immense amount of pressure.

0:32:120:32:16

Price was in his house within seconds of calling at the door, saying that work needed doing now.

0:32:160:32:22

At that time, we were having a lot of snow, it was extremely cold.

0:32:220:32:26

This is an elderly gentleman living on his own.

0:32:260:32:29

They were forcing him into giving them that money,

0:32:290:32:33

even with the cheek of giving a discounted price of two grand.

0:32:330:32:37

I thought we had gone beyond the point of no return.

0:32:370:32:41

I was in such a situation that the roof had to be repaired.

0:32:410:32:47

He said that he wanted his money right away and he didn't take cheques or anything. He wanted cash.

0:32:470:32:54

Whilst the rogues waited at his house in their van, they made Ray drive to the bank.

0:32:540:33:00

It had been a dizzying train of events. Two men had called cold, thrown tiles from his roof

0:33:000:33:05

and they pressured him to go and get six grand to fix it.

0:33:050:33:09

Thankfully, Ray encountered someone who genuinely had his interests at heart.

0:33:090:33:14

An elderly gentleman called in

0:33:140:33:16

and asked to draw a large sum of money out of his account.

0:33:160:33:20

I asked him some questions and he just seemed a little bit nervous.

0:33:200:33:24

Something just didn't seem quite right.

0:33:240:33:27

When I asked him a few more questions, I realised we needed to call the police.

0:33:270:33:32

What a star - trusting her instincts and leaping to Ray's help at his moment of need!

0:33:320:33:38

Kathie, your quick thinking saved Ray from losing a fortune

0:33:380:33:42

and also helped him to see the ugly truth.

0:33:420:33:45

I thought to myself that I'd been conned. There was no other word for it.

0:33:450:33:50

The way the cashier responded was absolutely excellent.

0:33:500:33:54

If it wasn't for them, we couldn't have responded so quickly to take Price and Dearden off the street.

0:33:540:34:00

When the police arrived at Ray's house, Price and Dearden tried to flee, but were caught and arrested.

0:34:000:34:07

It wasn't long before the police discovered why they tried to leave the scene of the crime so quickly.

0:34:070:34:13

The van they were sitting in and had been using that day was later searched.

0:34:130:34:18

There was no evidence of any tools, tiles or work equipment in the back.

0:34:180:34:22

They had no intention of doing any work to Mr Wood's roof.

0:34:220:34:26

Proof then that these two bad apples planned to take Ray's £6,000 and then scarper without doing the work.

0:34:260:34:32

An investigation showed the fraudsters had lied from the start in their quest for Ray's cash.

0:34:320:34:38

The chartered surveyor's report revealed that the work didn't need doing.

0:34:380:34:43

The damage they had caused cost Mr Wood £350 to repair.

0:34:430:34:47

The chartered surveyor was able to estimate that it should have cost no more than a few hundred pounds

0:34:470:34:53

to replace some tiles. Definitely not the £6,000 that Price quoted to Mr Wood.

0:34:530:34:58

According to the surveyor, Ray's roof needed a few hundred pounds' worth of work on it at most.

0:34:580:35:04

What these two con merchants did was to wreck his roof, then try and take Ray to the cleaners

0:35:040:35:10

to the tune of £6,000.

0:35:100:35:12

It almost defies belief.

0:35:120:35:14

But in April 2011 at Liverpool Crown Court,

0:35:160:35:19

Amos Price was sentenced to 14 months in prison for his part in trying to scam Ray.

0:35:190:35:25

Craig Dearden received nine months behind bars.

0:35:250:35:28

The actions of these two scammers may remain with their victim for much longer than their sentences.

0:35:280:35:34

I can't believe that people will treat pensioners in this way

0:35:340:35:40

and con them out of their hard-earned savings.

0:35:400:35:43

I'm much more cautious in the way I deal with people now,

0:35:430:35:47

whether it's by telephone or any other means.

0:35:470:35:50

It's good advice and remember to check your tradesman's ID.

0:35:500:35:53

DC Cath Haggerty has some other pointers that should help keep out the fraudsters.

0:35:530:35:58

My advice to avoid incidents like this, if in doubt, don't open the door.

0:35:580:36:04

Reputable companies will not cold-call at your address.

0:36:040:36:09

They will not try and sell you work to get it done there and then

0:36:090:36:13

because if they're a good company, you'll go to them.

0:36:130:36:16

Great advice. If you are thinking of using a particular tradesman,

0:36:200:36:24

always use a written contract as it offers you protection if anything does go wrong.

0:36:240:36:29

What about that college lecturer in Berkshire? Will he fall for our central heating con?

0:36:290:36:34

-Hello there.

-Hello.

0:36:340:36:37

Remember, Desmond is lodging with Gillian Tunley, his fellow lecturer.

0:36:370:36:42

She's left him in charge while Roger repairs a simple problem with the solar-panel heating system.

0:36:420:36:48

So far, Desmond has fallen for Roger's first dirty trick - a load of old techno babble.

0:36:480:36:53

It's almost like it's taking heat and dumping it out on the roof.

0:36:530:36:57

What's more, he's given them keys to come and go as they please.

0:36:570:37:02

He's let them start installing an unnecessary gadget without even asking for a quote.

0:37:020:37:07

Lads, I need to leave you. I'm teaching at the minute on the internet.

0:37:070:37:12

OK. All right, you carry on.

0:37:120:37:14

Of course, Roger will be charging over the odds for this alarm clock

0:37:140:37:18

which he's calling a weather compensator.

0:37:180:37:21

You see this wiring? See that?

0:37:210:37:23

There's...

0:37:230:37:25

-And...

-Look at that - multi-skilled!

0:37:250:37:28

-It will go up there, OK?

-Yeah.

-That's called "plug and play".

0:37:280:37:33

We could put a bit of gaff on there, but we don't want to waste any money. That's all wired in now, OK?

0:37:330:37:39

That is going to start talking.

0:37:390:37:41

Never leave untrustworthy tradesmen to work alone in your home.

0:37:410:37:45

It leaves you wide open to them finding ways to increase the scale of the job they can do

0:37:450:37:50

and crank up the costs as well.

0:37:500:37:53

He's gone for the clock and we've pretended to install that.

0:37:530:37:57

Now I'm going to tell him that his fluid needs changing.

0:37:570:38:01

The stuff that goes through the panel has coagulated, so we need to pump some new fluid in there.

0:38:010:38:07

I'm not going to bother doing it. We'll just pretend to do it.

0:38:070:38:12

What a cheek, Roger! Throwing in a bonus trick?

0:38:130:38:16

Sounds like more flannel could be heading Desmond's way.

0:38:160:38:20

I'll just give this a hook-up.

0:38:200:38:22

-What are we showing there, Luke?

-2.

-2 bar?

0:38:220:38:25

-2 bar.

-Are we?

0:38:250:38:27

When these panels don't work, when they sit there, the fluid goes a bit like toffee.

0:38:310:38:36

Because it's been doing no work. We'll pump that round the panels.

0:38:360:38:40

Then it'll just clear out any congealed...

0:38:400:38:43

-It's a bit like the anti-freeze in your car.

-I've got to go.

-That's all right.

0:38:430:38:48

Again Desmond leaves Roger to it and to aid his pretence of pumping,

0:38:480:38:53

our tradesman makes some realistic swooshing sounds with a little water.

0:38:530:38:58

One more, one more. That's lovely.

0:38:580:39:00

-I've just poured it all over...

-Oh, no. Can you get us a cloth, Luke?

0:39:000:39:05

We've got a flood on our hands.

0:39:050:39:07

Look at that.

0:39:070:39:09

-Can you wipe the top of that for me?

-Of course.

-Give it a quick wipe.

0:39:100:39:15

How considerate of you, Roger(!) But you're about to wipe the floor with Desmond,

0:39:150:39:20

if he's finished teaching English to his students around the world.

0:39:200:39:24

Do you want to pay us in yen or in English money?

0:39:240:39:28

I can give you some yen. How much is this going to cost?

0:39:280:39:31

-250 for the whole...

-BLEEP

-..thing. I'll let the fluid go for nothing. We normally charge 60 quid for that.

0:39:310:39:37

Gilly's left me with what she thought was 200, but she's only left me 190,

0:39:370:39:43

so I can give you 190 cash.

0:39:430:39:45

Today, lodger Desmond Dawson let a pair of unknown tradesmen into his friend's home.

0:39:450:39:52

He gave them free rein of the house, even the front door keys.

0:39:520:39:56

Roger flannelled him with lies and is claiming money for gadgets

0:39:560:40:00

and fluid changes that are unnecessary.

0:40:000:40:04

-20, 40, 60, 80, one ton. Yeah?

-One ton, yeah.

-All right?

0:40:040:40:09

20, 30, 40, 50,

0:40:100:40:12

60, 70,

0:40:120:40:14

80, 90... 190 quid.

0:40:140:40:18

There it goes - £190 for absolutely nothing.

0:40:180:40:22

-We'll sort it out.

-Can you give me a receipt?

-I'll go and get one.

0:40:220:40:26

He's right to demand a receipt, but it's a phoney document, not worth the paper it's written on.

0:40:260:40:33

But hang on. Is the whole scam about to unravel?

0:40:330:40:36

-Final question, mate.

-Yes?

-That wee box, so I can explain to Gilly...

0:40:360:40:41

I'll tell her. I'll ring her.

0:40:410:40:43

Quick thinking, Roger. Now time to skedaddle.

0:40:430:40:46

-Cheers.

-Cheers. Take care.

-All the best.

0:40:460:40:49

With Roger out of sight, it's time for our producer to call on Desmond and reveal the truth of the scam.

0:40:550:41:01

-Hello there.

-Hi. What the hell's happening?

0:41:030:41:07

We've been doing some investigations for a TV show we're making about painters, electricians...

0:41:070:41:14

We just had some today.

0:41:140:41:16

It's really strange. It's pretty weird. I just had somebody coming round.

0:41:160:41:21

Have you been tracking these guys?

0:41:210:41:23

To be honest with you, I'm pretty sure you've been the victim of a scam.

0:41:230:41:28

We've been following a couple of guys doing various jobs in the area

0:41:280:41:33

and they haven't been doing anything and walking off with hundreds of pounds of cash.

0:41:330:41:38

Can I show you the receipt, who they are?

0:41:380:41:41

There is no phone number at all, no.

0:41:410:41:44

I think it's about time to put Desmond out of his misery.

0:41:440:41:48

I don't know if Gilly's going to be happy with that. I really don't.

0:41:480:41:52

Here comes Gilly now and these are the two gentlemen. I don't know if you want to interview them?

0:41:520:41:58

-You've been set up, I'm afraid.

-Gilly, have I been set up?

0:41:580:42:02

Desmond, surely not(!)

0:42:030:42:06

Right, I'm going into Scottish mode here!

0:42:060:42:08

When I handed the cash over to Roger, he got 190, but he reckoned that he'd done 250's worth.

0:42:080:42:15

So he took the 190.

0:42:150:42:18

Now, with hindsight, I obviously don't feel happy about that at all.

0:42:180:42:24

I should be giving this to charity.

0:42:240:42:26

I would say try and get a quotation,

0:42:260:42:29

be more attentive to what people are doing when they're in the house and see what they're doing.

0:42:290:42:35

You know, and, um...

0:42:350:42:37

Although we can't be an expert on that,

0:42:370:42:41

it's basically to stay with these people.

0:42:410:42:45

Thanks for taking it so well, Desmond.

0:42:470:42:50

The vast majority of tradesmen provide a reliable service.

0:42:500:42:54

Only a very small minority try to con you. If in doubt, keep them out. See you next time.

0:42:540:43:00

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2011

0:43:120:43:15

Email [email protected]

0:43:150:43:18

College lecturer Gillian from Berkshire sets up her lodger Desmond for a visit from a pretend rogue roofer. Roger persuades him that a problem with their solar panel can only be fixed with the addition of a special meteorological clock, which will cost several hundred pounds. But Desmond has engineering experience from his days in the Air Force. Will he be taken in by Roger's flim-flam?

Plus a Hertfordshire man sets up his girlfriend, who waits in for Roger to fix a broken panel in their front door. Will she pay the fortune he wants to charge for inexpensive burglar alarms?

Meanwhile, a quick-thinking bank clerk in Merseyside saves a consumer from a £6,000 rip-off roof repair. Her emergency call to police ensured that the cowboys were caught in the act and convicted.