Episode 15 Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen


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Episode 15

Hidden-camera series. Roger uses smelly cheese and a bottle of water to persuade a teacher from Kent that he needs to pay several hundred pounds for unnecessary damp-proofing.


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Transcript


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We're under pressure to make our money go further so what could be worse

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than when something goes wrong with our homes? Last year, we spent £15 billion on house 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?

-Yeah.

-You're joking, aren't you?

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Probably about seven and a half grand.

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Thanks to audacious secret filming,

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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 ten minutes work.

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-Were they a set-up, as well?

-No!

-THEY LAUGH

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Plus, we show the consequences of some truly shocking tradesman rip-offs.

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There are always going to be 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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'Our tradesman Roger tries playing tricks with a lump of old cheese. Yes, cheese.

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'But will he convince a teacher that his kitchen is alive with mould?'

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-It smells like a forest. Have a whiff of that.

-Ooh! It's like mushrooms.

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'The extraordinary Trading Standards investigation that lasted five years

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'and collared the damp-proofing con men who tricked vulnerable consumers.'

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This is something that really needs doing, I've got to find the money.

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'And Roger turns a simple washing machine leak into an expensive repair.

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'Will this Surrey man fall into his trap?'

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-All these are plugged into the same thing?

-No, that's one's plugged in underneath.

-Oh, that's fine.

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These are the dirty tricks of the tradesmen.

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I don't know about you, 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 and we expect them to be professional and to do a good job.

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And the vast majority of them do exactly that.

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It's only a small minority who give tradesmen a bad name with their dirty tricks.

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People from all over the country are telling us their shocking stories of being ripped off by the cowboys

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and many more are helping us to blow the secrets of the rogues' most commonly used tricks

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by setting up their friends and family for a visit from our very own tradesman.

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It's all to show you how to avoid being taken for a ride.

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So who is our tradesman?

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'Allow me to present Roger Bisby.

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'A builder with more than 40 years experience,

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'he's forgotten more about the building game than you or I could ever learn.'

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But we're asking Roger to go against everything he believes in

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and become a dodgy tradesman

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just so we can show you how not to get conned.

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

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'He'll be working with our cameraman Luke, who's acting as an apprentice

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'so they can film everything in secret.

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

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According to Trading Standards, victims of rogue tradesmen

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lost more than £200 million in the UK in 2010.

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Roofers and driveway merchants caused the most problems,

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but there are cowboys in all the trades.

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We have a shocking real-life story about dodgy damp-proofers coming up in just a moment. But first...

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'Meet Michael Hartley, a fitness instructor from Gravesend in Kent.

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'He's invited us to set up his older brother Andrew, a music teacher.'

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The best way to describe Andrew would be down-to-earth,

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fun, energetic, sort of up for a laugh, gullible.

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He's quite easily lead. What happened, he had a washing machine that was leaking.

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As a result, the mould started climbing the wall.

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'Well, that mouldy wall is the cue for our tradesman to extract as much work and money

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'from the unsuspecting Andrew as possible.

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'Luke and Roger want to trick him into believing he's got a huge problem

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'with the help of some strong-smelling cheese.'

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I've got a special prop sent with love all the way from France.

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-Have a smell of it.

-I can smell it already, mate. Oh, that is fresh.

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We'll show you what this little bit of cheese does in a few moments.

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Roger will plant that cheese so Andrew's kitchen reeks.

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Hopefully Andrew will think he has a serious mould problem.

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The next trick will be to lie about the cause.

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Roger will flannel him with nonsense about his damp-proofing course.

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Then he'll charge over the odds for a special treatment that won't be special at all.

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'It's nearly ten past nine

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'when Roger and Luke arrive ready to spring a van-load of tricks.

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-This one.

-'Andrew doesn't realise that a simple extractor fan

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'would help prevent dampness in the kitchen. That costs around £30 to £50 with the installation on top.

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'Let's see if our cowboy builder will give him such helpful advice.'

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-Good morning to you, sir. Are you Andrew?

-Yes. Roger?

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-Sorry, yeah. Hi.

-You all right?

-This is my assistant, Luke.

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-Hello, you all right?

-He's on a bit of work experience. You're not paying for him.

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'Oh, dear. He's failed to ask Roger for ID.

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'His brother's obviously done a great job of convincing him that Roger's the man for the job.'

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-All right are you?

-Yeah, not bad. How are you?

-Yeah, good, thanks.

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-Bit of damp, yeah?

-Yeah.

-Bit of damp. Let's have a quick look.

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'Like any trickster, our cowboy must first assess the mouldy wall

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'and build a rapport with Andrew.

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'To squeeze the most money out of the job, it's crucial to gain his confidence.'

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Look at that. That is pretty mouldy, actually, yeah.

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I'd be concerned about that. There's just loads of mould behind there.

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We'll be able to give that a bit of a...

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There you are. There's a little bit of your mortgage.

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-Oh, right.

-Yeah, it's horrible, actually, isn't it? Really horrible.

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I'll just go and get a torch and a little lamp tie.

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'Now for the first dirty trick.

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-'Bring on the cheese!'

-It's pretty nasty, isn't it?

-Mm.

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'While trusty assistant Luke keeps Andrew talking, Roger smears it under the counter.'

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-We had a problem with a heron a little while ago.

-Really?

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-It ate some of the fish, so...

-Oh, I see.

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-That's why you put it on.

-Yeah.

-OK.

-Herons will never...

-Blimey.

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That is quite extensive, actually.

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-It smells... Quite honestly...

-It smells quite bad.

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It smells like the forest in here. That...

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If you have a whiff of that, that's... If it was timber in that floor...

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-Ohh! It's like mushrooms, isn't it?

-Yeah.

-Is it?

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'Not much of a reaction. Perhaps Andrew's smelt worse.

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'It's time now to try out one of the oldest tricks of the trade

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'and baffle the homeowner with pseudo-science.'

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Excuse me, I just want to have a look outside.

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In case there's something obvious. Oh, right.

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What they've done is, this render has breached the damp-proof course

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to an extent. You're supposed to stop at the damp-proof course

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so the damp can't climb over.

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And unfortunately, they've hacked it... Oh, right.

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See what's going on round here? What they've basically done with that

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is shoved that render all the way down to the ground, damp course is up there,

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it's on a hiding to nothing anyway cos it's a single-brick wall.

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If it was a cavity wall, it would have to jump the cavity.

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Because it's a single-brick, it's just going straight up there. It's almost like a sponge.

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'It all sounds very plausible, doesn't it?

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'But it's all a pack of lies.'

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If we coat it, we can give it a spray over with some silicone, which will just repel the water.

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'Silicone? I can smell a trick coming on.

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'Using little more than the gift of the gab, Roger's lining up a massive quote.

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'Remember, an extractor fan worth 50 quid plus a small installation fee would solve Andrew's problems.'

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What we'll do is, if we give it a coat around the outside

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and then just put this damp-proofing stuff on it,

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-erm... What will we say? 360 for that.

-Right.

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-If we're going to do it for cash, that is.

-OK.

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'£360. That's roughly four times what he ought to be paying.'

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-Just stop the immediate problems of that mould from growing.

-Yeah.

-The thing is with that mould,

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I'm just concerned that it might continue to grow otherwise.

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'Well, Andrew has heard what the bill could roughly be

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'but he hasn't asked for thinking time, let alone the chance to pick up at least two other quotes.

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'Roger's also relying on Andrew not asking for a receipt. Let's hope it doesn't cost him dear.'

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-So do you want us to do that?

-Er, I think so.

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Yep. OK.

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OK, I'll go and get the gear.

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'So will Roger get away with this outrageous damp-proofing trick?'

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What it does is, it reacts with moisture.

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'Andrew won't really hand over £360 to this no-nonsense mould-buster, will he?'

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There's so many cowboys in this game that you don't know what you're doing really, you know?

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It seems unbelievable, doesn't it, but the idea of charging someone a fortune

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for spraying their walls with water is based on reality. It's one of the dirtiest tricks in the book

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and it actually happened to vulnerable consumers in Nottinghamshire.

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'Operation Rigsby, named after the landlord in the TV sitcom Rising Damp,

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'was a mammoth Trading Standards investigation. It took place over five years

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'and covered five counties. We're looking at several cases, the first near Nottingham.

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'Unlike the city's most famous son, Robin Hood, the ruthless con artists involved stole from the vulnerable

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'and gave nothing in return.

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'A team of six scammers, led by Paul Hilton and Kevin Christian,

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'carried out hundreds of bogus damp-proofing jobs.

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'They had just one mission in life - to squeeze as much money out of innocent homeowners as possible.'

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We know that there's definitely over 200 victims that have been involved

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and we're looking at a figure of just under about £1.5 million.

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'£1.5 million, an astonishing amount.

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'One of those targeted by the gang in April 2008

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'was 79-year-old Joan Walker,

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'a widow living in Nottinghamshire.'

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It happened about two years ago.

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They knocked on the front door

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and offered me a free service for a damp course.

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And I thought, "I might as well have it done, it's free"

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and took it from there.

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'What Joan didn't know was that she was letting a professional con man into her house

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'who'd already fleeced dozens of victims.'

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A lot of the gang's victims are older ladies that live on their own,

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they're widowed,

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they've got family but family don't live with them,

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they're struggling to get people in to do jobs for them

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and that's the typical type of victim that we've been dealing with.

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He came through the door and he walked across the living room

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and he walked across... In fact, I didn't notice anything in his hand at first,

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but he had a little gadget not much bigger than that.

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And he went down by the fireplace

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and he checked all the back of the fireplace there.

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When he got halfway to the window, then it started bleeping

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and it got louder and louder and louder

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and he went in the porch, and that was loud, very loud. He said, "Oh, dear, it's bad here."

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'These devious rogue tradesmen were using damp detection devices, but they weren't playing fair.

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'These devices can be picked up at any DIY store

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'and can be manipulated to give false readings,

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'for instance, by wetting the sensors with a licked finger or a damp cloth.

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'Because one thing's for sure. Joan didn't have a damp problem.

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'But she was already starting to fret about the state of her home.

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'Preying on her fear and vulnerability,

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'the scammers played their next trick on the unsuspecting grandmother.'

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They brought me outside, they were on about the damp course that's already in and he said that's no good.

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He said, "Now, what can I do? Oh, I know, I'll convince you

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"that it really does need doing."

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'Their next dirty trick was simple but very effective.'

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He convinced me by getting a bucket of water and throwing it all over the wall.

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When he threw the bucket of water over the wall,

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he said something about if the bricks absorb the water,

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that means, yes, you need a full damp course.

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'But bricks are designed to be porous, so water will always be absorbed.

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'The con men had Joan exactly where they wanted her.'

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Well, I felt gutted, really. This is something that really needs doing, I've got to find the money.

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So then we discussed how much it was

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and I said, "Oh, no, I can't afford that".

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And I got him down to 999.

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And I said, "Oh, all right, then".

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I gave him £100 deposit.

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After that, he came on the Monday and they did the job

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and I paid him the rest of the money in cash.

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'They had fleeced Joan out of almost £1,000 for nothing.

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'But her ordeal was still not over.

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'Later on, we'll find out how Joan got the better of those con men.

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'Plus, we'll hear from other consumers who fell victim to their dirty tricks.'

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It makes me feel angry because you take them into your confidence

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and realise all the time they've been scamming you thinking, "I'm taking you for a ride".

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'Plus, in our quest to show you how not to be ripped off,

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'Roger has more dirty tricks for a tough customer in Surrey.'

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-What we doing for the money?

-What money?

-75 quid.

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-For what?

-Are you winding me up? For doing that!

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'But first, what about music teacher Andrew from Kent and that mouldy kitchen?'

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The thing is, with the mould, I'm just concerned that it might continue to grow.

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'Roger says his damp-proofing course isn't up to scratch

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'and that the water is leaking in, causing mould.

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'The cheap solution would be a simple extractor fan worth £30 to £50 plus installation.

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'But Roger claims he can improve the damp course by spraying on a simple silicone-based water repellent.

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'Totally unnecessary. And the charge for that, £360.'

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Right, take this gear in for me, mate.

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This is a prop.

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-This is what he thinks we're using, all right?

-Right.

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'This little bottle contains nothing more than water.

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'Let's hope Andrew doesn't check the contents, or Roger's credibility could be blown.'

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I'll just put a bit of household bleach, basically.

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Give that a clean off.

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'It's now 10:30 and Roger returns

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'to apply his totally unnecessary damp-proofing course

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'and wipe down the wall with a bleach solution, something Andrew could've done himself for nothing.'

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This stuff I've got on here kills any of the mould

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before it can get established anywhere else.

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And then if we stop the moisture from the outside...

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-I'm going to go out and give it a spray.

-'With the mould cleaned off, it's time to tackle the outside.'

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-The stuff that goes on the outside is this super-concentrated stuff.

-Yeah.

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'As we know, the super-concentrated solution is nothing more than water in a little white bottle.

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'This light spray of water won't harm the wall

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'but nor will it damp-proof it. And it certainly isn't worth 360 quid!'

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What it does is, it reacts with moisture. The wetter the wall...

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'To maintain Andrew's trust, Roger keeps up his flow of super-concentrated waffle.'

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With this stuff, it'll breathe. So all the moisture that's locked in will breathe out,

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especially during the warm summer.

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There's so many cowboys in this game that...you don't know what you're doing really, you know.

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'After half an hour, Roger decides to call it a day.

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'So, Andrew Hartley let in a tricky tradesman without checking his ID.

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'Roger's kicked up a stink with some rotten old cheese.

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'And he's treated Andrew's exterior walls with nothing more than water.

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'So, will Andrew believe the job is done and pay up?'

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-360, Rog?

-Yeah, that's it, mate. Are you taking the money?

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-Don't trust him with the money.

-No, you take the money.

-Give it to me.

-ANDREW LAUGHS

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Erm, yeah, that's all right, 360.

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Two. Two, four, six, eight, three.

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-Two, four, six.

-That's lovely. We won't worry about the call-out charge, either.

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-THEY LAUGH Cheers.

-All right, lovely. All the best.

-Thank you.

-Have a good day.

0:17:250:17:30

Thanks a lot.

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'£360 handed over without any second opinion, any written quotation, any receipt,

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'or in fact, any actual evidence that the work was done.

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'All because Andrew was rushed into a job he didn't actually need doing.

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'With Roger safely round the corner, it's time for our producer to pay Andrew a visit

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'and explain the truth.'

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-Hi. Is it Andrew?

-Yeah, speaking.

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Hi, Andrew, I just wondered if you might be able to do a little chat with us.

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We're doing a bit of filming in the area for a BBC consumer programme.

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Have you had anyone call this morning, by any chance?

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-Only to put some treatment on the wall.

-OK.

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-Yeah.

-Were you happy with that?

-Yep. Yeah, more than happy.

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Suppose I was to tell you that it was a bit of a scam.

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-Yeah.

-And that actually there was nothing wrong with your wall.

-Yeah.

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'Andrew seems to be in shock. Still, he has just handed over £360 to a cowboy.

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'It's time to tell him exactly what's going on.'

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Your brother sort of, er, has got us here doing a bit of a scam on you

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-to see whether you might fall for it.

-Right.

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How would you react if I told you that?

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HE LAUGHS

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-All right?

-Yeah.

0:18:500:18:52

All right, mate?

0:18:540:18:56

'Er, what about that £360?'

0:18:560:18:59

-Well done, sir. Thank you very much indeed. That was great. Hello.

-You all right?

-Yeah, yeah.

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I'm very reluctant to do this, but I suppose I better give you your money back.

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Roger was great. I just took it that he was a builder and he knew exactly what he was doing.

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There you are, mate. Lovely.

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-Thank you very much.

-Count it, cos you can't trust me.

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I had no idea anything was going on at all. Nothing. It was so well done.

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I was just happy to go along with that.

0:19:250:19:28

I'd definitely question more traders in the future. Definitely.

0:19:280:19:32

Andrew was such a good sport there, but what should you do in that situation to avoid being conned?

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First, always get at least three quotes for this kind of work.

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Second, never leave tradesmen alone.

0:19:430:19:46

If Andrew had kept an eye on Roger, he'd have seen him whip out his cheese.

0:19:460:19:50

And finally, if anything goes wrong, don't be afraid to call for help.

0:19:500:19:54

Your local Trading Standards will offer advice.

0:19:540:19:58

There are few things more annoying than when your washing machine breaks down

0:20:010:20:05

and leaves a huge puddle of dirty water all over the kitchen floor.

0:20:050:20:09

Well, that's the scenario facing our next consumer.

0:20:090:20:11

Except it's all been arranged by his wife, along with a visit from our rogue repair man.

0:20:110:20:16

'Tina Chambers works part-time for the ambulance service.

0:20:180:20:21

'She's been married to husband Andy, a civil servant in the police, for nine years.'

0:20:210:20:26

I've decided to set Andy up because I wanted to get one over on him today. And just to catch him out.

0:20:260:20:32

'Loving wife Tina has got a rodent-based score to settle.'

0:20:320:20:35

Previously when we've done building work, we did find a rat.

0:20:350:20:39

And he scurried off upstairs and left me to deal with the rat.

0:20:390:20:43

I've told him that we've got a leaking washing machine,

0:20:430:20:46

which I've spilt water down on the floor.

0:20:460:20:49

'That's Roger and Luke's cue to step into tricky-tradesmen mode,

0:20:490:20:53

'and spring a con that involves a leaky washing machine and a fake mouse we got from a TV prop store.'

0:20:530:20:58

-There we go. There's a little bit of a sign of what is in there.

-Oh, lovely!

0:20:580:21:03

Beautiful. What we're going to do, we're going to put these humane mouse traps in there.

0:21:030:21:07

But also, to make the job worth a bit more money, we're going to use these rodent repellers.

0:21:070:21:13

What they do is, they work on an ultrasonic signal and an electromagnetic signal

0:21:130:21:17

and they send a signal around the mains in the house

0:21:170:21:21

and it's uncomfortable for rodents to live in that house.

0:21:210:21:24

So Roger will spend a few moments pretending to fix a leak which doesn't exist.

0:21:250:21:30

Whilst he's behind the washing machine, the next trick will be to plant his props.

0:21:300:21:34

With luck, Andy will believe him and snap up Roger's mouse traps and deterrents.

0:21:340:21:39

All at a vastly inflated price.

0:21:390:21:41

'Roger is calling this his squeaky-clean washing machine trick.

0:21:430:21:46

'It's an audacious, ambitious scam and might not go exactly to plan.

0:21:460:21:51

'Depending on the manufacturer and warranty situation,

0:21:510:21:54

'a call-out charge to repair a washing machine should cost somewhere between £50 to £90.

0:21:540:21:59

'Of course, Roger has his eye on a bigger cash prize.'

0:21:590:22:03

Hello.

0:22:060:22:08

Have I got the right one? Did you nick all this from Brighton beach?

0:22:080:22:13

-Washing machine, yeah?

-That's it. I can do bikes, too.

0:22:130:22:16

You all right with the bike, are you? I like bikes.

0:22:160:22:19

'Andy's not checking Roger's ID. He could be anybody.

0:22:190:22:24

'First things first. What's the all-important question that every tradesman likes to hear?'

0:22:240:22:29

-Do you want a drink, or a cup of tea?

-I'd love a cup of tea, yeah.

0:22:290:22:32

-These are plugged into the same thing?

-Er, no, that one is plugged in under there.

-That's fine. Perfect.

0:22:320:22:38

And that's it, isn't it?

0:22:380:22:40

'Before the tea, let's have a look at this washing machine.

0:22:400:22:44

'Roger, what are you up to?

0:22:440:22:46

'Don't do yourself a mischief, mate. Now, he soon gets down to business round the back of the machine.'

0:22:480:22:54

We'll have a little dust pan and brush before we go cos... I'm just going to get my torch out.

0:22:540:23:00

'It's not just a torch he's after. It's time for Roger to collect something more important,

0:23:000:23:05

'that TV prop mouse.'

0:23:050:23:08

OK. I've got the washing machine out. I've had a look behind it.

0:23:110:23:15

There's some promising signs of bits of food there.

0:23:150:23:18

Lots of things like crisps that the kids have dropped.

0:23:180:23:21

The sort of thing a mouse might be interested in.

0:23:210:23:23

Now all I've got to do is introduce that mouse, plant that and hope for a good reaction from him.

0:23:230:23:29

'I hope he doesn't bite, Rog. No, not the mouse. I mean Andy,

0:23:340:23:38

'who's obviously wondering where they've been all this time.'

0:23:380:23:42

We're just trying to get rid of this other job, cos really we don't want to do it.

0:23:420:23:47

Yeah. I'm just trying to reach the old stopcock in the back here.

0:23:470:23:52

It's just a bit of a stretch for me.

0:23:550:23:57

'Tricky tradesmen often plant props or manipulate people's possessions,

0:24:010:24:05

'to make their scams seem more convincing.'

0:24:050:24:07

Look at that little fella down there.

0:24:090:24:11

Is it a big one, is it? Oh, my life!

0:24:110:24:14

-Oh, you've got a few of those.

-No way!

0:24:140:24:17

-Is it... There's little bits of food under there.

-BLEEP!

0:24:170:24:20

He doesn't look like he's alive anymore, you're all right.

0:24:200:24:24

-Oh!

-I thought he moved.

0:24:240:24:27

-Really? I don't think he has gone and moved.

-He's been here a while.

0:24:270:24:30

-Mummified, is it?

-There you go, give it the kiss of life.

0:24:300:24:34

-Go on!

-Oh!

0:24:340:24:36

-Humanely dispose of it.

-'Cor, Roger, how do you get away with it?

0:24:370:24:41

'By the way, Andy doesn't seem too concerned about his uninvited house guest.'

0:24:410:24:45

-Do you know how big a hole they need to get through?

-Oh, tiny.

-It's like a biro pen or something.

0:24:450:24:51

And once they're in, it's free food. They're laughing.

0:24:510:24:55

'So Roger is here to sell his mouse deterrent, so a quick reminder of the facts of life might be helpful.'

0:24:550:25:00

If you've got two mice, I reckon in six weeks, I don't know, some fantastic figure they multiply by.

0:25:000:25:07

So you're on a hiding to nothing when they're in.

0:25:070:25:10

-What's the best solution, Rog?

-'Well, whatever it is, it's bound to involve lots of Andy's money.

0:25:100:25:16

'So will Andy pay up for Roger's mouse deterrents?'

0:25:170:25:21

-Have you ever heard of these electronic deterrents?

-I've heard of them, yeah.

0:25:210:25:25

'Could he be Roger's most determined customer yet?'

0:25:250:25:28

-What do we do for the money?

-What money?

-The £75.

-For what?

-Are you winding me up? For doing that!

0:25:280:25:34

Hm, let's hope Roger doesn't go too far with his tall stories.

0:25:380:25:41

Now, earlier we heard from a consumer in Nottinghamshire

0:25:410:25:44

who'd fallen prey to some dirty damp-proofing tricks.

0:25:440:25:48

They were just a small part of Operation Rigsby, and Joan wasn't the only victim.

0:25:480:25:53

'Operation Rigsby was a massive Trading Standards investigation

0:25:530:25:57

'that targeted a prolific gang of six fraudsters.

0:25:570:26:00

'They fleeced more than 200 victims out of almost £1.5 million.

0:26:000:26:07

'79-year-old widow Joan Walker was one of those tricked into forking out almost £1,000

0:26:070:26:12

'for a bogus damp-proofing course.

0:26:120:26:14

'They did this by giving her a false reading

0:26:140:26:17

'using a damp detection device and some other rather less subtle methods.'

0:26:170:26:22

They convinced me by getting a bucket of water and throwing it all over the wall.

0:26:220:26:27

'Their victims were spread over five counties and were usually elderly or vulnerable folk.

0:26:290:26:34

'Pam and Michael Robinson from Leicestershire were on the receiving end

0:26:340:26:38

'of a clinically organised visit from the gang.'

0:26:380:26:42

It makes me feel angry. It upsets me

0:26:420:26:45

because, you know, you take them into your confidence, if you like,

0:26:450:26:50

and you realise all the time they've been scamming you and thinking, "I'm taking you for a ride".

0:26:500:26:56

'In January 2008, gang member Dominic O'Carroll

0:26:580:27:02

'cold-called the Robinsons to ask if they'd like a surveyor to visit them.

0:27:020:27:06

'He said the service usually costs £99

0:27:060:27:09

'but on this occasion, the surveyor could inspect their bungalow for free.

0:27:090:27:13

'Of course, the surveyor was another gang member, Christian Baird.

0:27:130:27:16

'So when he came the next day, the scam was well and truly underway.'

0:27:160:27:20

He went all in the house. Nothing in there. Came out here.

0:27:200:27:25

Came back and says, "You've just got one problem."

0:27:250:27:27

Brings us out here with a torch up there.

0:27:270:27:32

He said the felt under the tiles was going rotten.

0:27:320:27:36

And he said that the water would get in there, rot all the timbers...

0:27:360:27:42

-And we need a new roof.

-..and we'd end up needing a complete new roof. We were sort of panicking a bit.

0:27:420:27:48

'On top of scaring the Robinsons into having the re-felting done,

0:27:480:27:52

'Baird now played another roguish trick.

0:27:520:27:54

'He said it would cost £1,200 to repair the roof,

0:27:540:27:59

'but that he could call a builder to try and get the price down. Two minutes later, the quote was £844

0:27:590:28:05

'and the builder was scheduled to start the next day.'

0:28:050:28:09

He brought in a piece of this felt guard to show us,

0:28:090:28:14

and he just carried on, he was just doing it, pushing the tiles up,

0:28:140:28:19

and then as he pushed the tiles up then this lays on,

0:28:190:28:23

and then they brought the tiles down, but it took about five hours and it was dark when he finished.

0:28:230:28:29

'So it wasn't until the next day that Pam could inspect the roofing work properly

0:28:290:28:33

'in all its shoddy glory.'

0:28:330:28:36

The front gable, there was a big piece of concrete there which he stuck back in with the silicone.

0:28:370:28:44

And that fell out two days later.

0:28:440:28:46

There was a tile up there had been pushed up, hadn't been put back down. It was a complete mess.

0:28:460:28:52

'This cost the Robinsons £200 to put right.

0:28:530:28:56

'So on top of the £844 they'd already paid, the total came to more than £1,000.

0:28:560:29:02

'For a re-felting job that should have cost just £325.

0:29:020:29:07

'What's more, the job really didn't need doing. Just like the unnecessary damp-proofing

0:29:070:29:12

'for which Joan Walker paid the gang a similar extortionate sum.'

0:29:120:29:16

My granddaughter came round and she said, "You haven't had it done, have you?"

0:29:160:29:22

So I said, "Yeah." She says, "Well, you haven't decorated."

0:29:220:29:25

I says, "It don't need decorating." "Ah, but it does!" she said.

0:29:250:29:28

'To damp-proof properly, plaster has to be taken off interior walls

0:29:280:29:33

'and holes drilled around the house and then injected with a waterproof chemical.

0:29:330:29:37

'A process that can take hours, if not days.

0:29:370:29:40

'The rogue traders who came to Joan's house certainly didn't go to that much trouble.'

0:29:400:29:45

And then from there, we got onto Trading Standards.

0:29:450:29:48

'Trading Standards officer Nicola Schofield took on Joan's case,

0:29:500:29:53

'which, along with Pam and Michael Robinson's case, she was able to link with Operation Rigsby.'

0:29:530:29:58

We'd had several complaints coming into the department

0:29:580:30:01

about this particular company. We began to investigate that.

0:30:010:30:05

And then we got another complaint in about Joan's particular circumstances.

0:30:050:30:10

We came out and took a statement from her. It started from there.

0:30:100:30:13

The similarity between Joan's case and a lot of other cases were the use of the hand-held damp detector

0:30:130:30:19

to say there was damp in the property when there wasn't.

0:30:190:30:22

And getting people to invite them into their homes

0:30:220:30:25

on the basis that it's a free property survey when, in fact, it wasn't.

0:30:250:30:28

'Once inside, they could fake problems which didn't actually exist.

0:30:280:30:32

'A classic trick played by the gang on both Joan and the Robinsons.'

0:30:320:30:37

-This is some of the paperwork you signed. Do you remember the contract that you signed?

-Yes.

0:30:370:30:43

-And that there is going to be Dryzone external injection, as the diagram.

-Right.

0:30:430:30:47

-And that's the price that you paid.

-Yes.

0:30:470:30:51

The first criminal act they took was inferring there was a problem with the property when there wasn't.

0:30:510:30:56

It is a type of fraud. There is then other issues with paperwork

0:30:560:31:01

and things like offering a guarantee that is non-existent.

0:31:010:31:04

So there's other offences alongside of that.

0:31:040:31:07

-That's the guarantee, isn't it?

-Yes. Because I thought, "20 years, well, I might not be here in 20 years."

0:31:070:31:13

'Worse was still to come. Trading Standards sent an expert surveyor round.'

0:31:130:31:18

We had a surveyor's report done on this property and from his findings, he's concluded that,

0:31:180:31:24

"The installation of a chemical injection damp-proof course in the external walls of the property

0:31:240:31:29

"in April 2008 was not justified and therefore unwarranted."

0:31:290:31:33

In layman's terms, that means that the work wasn't necessary

0:31:330:31:37

and it didn't need doing in the first place.

0:31:370:31:41

'But it wasn't all bad news for Joan and the other victims.

0:31:410:31:45

'Their courage in contacting Trading Standards helped to build a case against this gang of six rogues.

0:31:450:31:51

'In particular, the ringleaders Paul Hilton and Kevin Christian.'

0:31:510:31:54

Two main people involved with these companies, Paul Hilton and Kevin Christian,

0:31:540:32:01

have both been sentenced to 12 and 18 months respectively in prison.

0:32:010:32:04

The other members have been given effectively community service and suspended sentences.

0:32:040:32:10

'And there's still hope for those conned of claiming back some of their money.'

0:32:100:32:15

We have started a financial investigation into these traders,

0:32:150:32:19

and the money, the first priority would be to compensate the victims.

0:32:190:32:23

My advice to consumers is to be careful about who you do business with on the doorstep.

0:32:230:32:28

If someone comes to the door offering to do work on your property,

0:32:280:32:31

just remember that you don't have to have it done there and then.

0:32:310:32:34

Speak to friends and relatives, get recommendations, get quotes,

0:32:340:32:38

and always think about who you're doing business with at the door.

0:32:380:32:42

A truly remarkable and terrible story.

0:32:460:32:49

Let's find out how Roger's getting on now with his dirty tricks.

0:32:490:32:52

'Now remember, he's been called in to investigate a supposedly leaky washing machine

0:32:540:32:59

'at the home of the police civil servant Andy Chambers. He's planted a prop mouse behind the machine

0:32:590:33:06

'and hopes to charge for rodent traps and ultrasonic gadgets to deter vermin.'

0:33:060:33:11

-Look at that little fella down there.

-Oh, my life!

0:33:110:33:15

'So far everything is going to plan and with a leak to fix, too,

0:33:150:33:18

'Roger could be looking at making 300 quid.'

0:33:180:33:21

-Some fantastic figure they multiply by.

-Yeah.

0:33:210:33:24

So you're on a hiding to nothing when they're in.

0:33:240:33:27

-This is all concrete floors.

-What's the solution, Rog?

0:33:270:33:30

Well, I'm just thinking. I can get you a couple of mouse traps. Stick them in there.

0:33:300:33:36

-We've actually got some.

-Did you get anything in them or not?

0:33:360:33:39

-No, nothing.

-Where are they?

-Out in the shed.

0:33:390:33:43

'Oh, dear, Andy's not taking the bait.'

0:33:430:33:47

The only other thing I can do, have you ever heard of these electronic deterrent things?

0:33:470:33:52

-They send like a sonic signal.

-I've heard of them, yeah.

0:33:520:33:56

Erm, if I get you a couple of those and plug them in and it just sends a signal round and in the end...

0:33:560:34:01

-I think the neighbour has them.

-Oh, really?

-They've had a few before.

-Right.

0:34:010:34:05

I'll get theirs of them, borrow them for a little while.

0:34:050:34:08

'Ah, things are starting to get a little tricky for our Roger.'

0:34:080:34:11

'Andy's just not falling for his pitch with the ultrasonic deterrents.'

0:34:110:34:15

If you use theirs, then what will happen is that...

0:34:150:34:19

-It'll push them back again.

-..they'll keep going backwards and forwards between the two houses.

-Yeah.

0:34:190:34:25

So that'll be a bit of fun. All right. OK. Well, erm,

0:34:250:34:30

-which side is it, that side? The side you're joined to, is it?

-Yeah.

-That's all right.

0:34:300:34:34

OK, erm, all right, that's fine.

0:34:340:34:38

'There's nothing for it but to repair the washing machine. And we know there's nothing wrong with it.

0:34:380:34:43

'Andy's wife made up the problem in order to get Roger into the house.

0:34:430:34:47

'It gives Luke a chance to brush up on his banter.'

0:34:470:34:50

-And you've got a rabbit out there, as well.

-Guinea pigs, yeah.

-Yeah.

-Three guinea pigs.

0:34:500:34:54

-I'll just get the old absorbent cloth, all right?

-OK.

0:34:540:34:58

That's a beautiful garden, isn't it? It's great.

0:34:580:35:02

He's not going to go for it. He doesn't want my mouse traps, he's got a couple already.

0:35:060:35:11

He's going to borrow the ultrasonic devices from next door.

0:35:110:35:16

So what am I going to do? What I've got to do now, I guess, is go for that chewed up bit of cable

0:35:160:35:22

and hope that he goes for that.

0:35:220:35:24

That's my only chance to make this washing machine repair into something bigger.

0:35:240:35:28

'Keep your chin up, Roger. If Andy isn't falling for your overtures, that's not a bad thing.

0:35:280:35:33

'He's clearly a switched-on consumer. But you might still make a quick buck from the gnawed cable.

0:35:330:35:39

'Maybe try some of your class-A codswallop on him.'

0:35:390:35:42

-As far as your rodents go...

-Yeah?

0:35:420:35:45

..I'm just a bit concerned in case they've chewed through some of your cables or something, you know?

0:35:450:35:51

-Do you get any trouble with electrics at all?

-No, not really.

0:35:530:35:56

-They never pop off on you or anything?

-No.

-Sometimes what they do is chew through the cables.

0:35:560:36:01

Next thing you know, you're getting house fires and things.

0:36:010:36:04

You get a lot of that when they're in lofts and they chew cables.

0:36:040:36:07

-Yeah.

-Before you know it, you've got things arcing together. Sets the house on fire or something.

0:36:070:36:14

I wanted to make sure you're OK.

0:36:140:36:16

We can't interest you in anything else. We're not going to be able to rewire your house or anything today.

0:36:160:36:23

Just trying to make a crust. That was all.

0:36:230:36:25

-VIOLIN MUSIC

-Thought I might make a few bob.

0:36:250:36:28

Life is hard. I tell you, we're going to have a really thin weekend this weekend.

0:36:280:36:34

I don't think I'm going out tonight.

0:36:340:36:37

It's like getting blood out of a stone.

0:36:370:36:39

'I'm sorry, I'm losing it. This is almost Dickensian.

0:36:410:36:44

'How soon before you mention Tiny Tim and his crutches?'

0:36:440:36:47

That looks very good.

0:36:480:36:51

OK, I'll be back in a second.

0:36:510:36:53

He's not going for it. He's not going to get anywhere.

0:37:000:37:03

So we're just going to have to try him for £75 call-out charge on the washing machine.

0:37:030:37:08

And then we're just going to have to say, "If you need anything, if we can help with that rodent problem,

0:37:080:37:15

"then don't hesitate to contact us."

0:37:150:37:17

'There's no faulting Roger's effort.

0:37:170:37:20

'Charging £75 call-out to repair a washing machine that's not even broken isn't bad.

0:37:200:37:25

'But with Andy advertising his hobby on the windowsill, could there be a chance to make more?'

0:37:270:37:33

Racehorses. He's a gambling man, isn't he?

0:37:330:37:37

He is. Did you notice he's got horseracing in his downstairs loo?

0:37:370:37:42

He's got horseracing here. Do you know what? We should have spotted the signs.

0:37:420:37:46

-Do you go to Epsom a lot?

-Oh, we go everywhere.

-Do you?

0:37:460:37:50

-OK, look, I tell you what, my call-out charge for this, minimum call-out charge is £75.

-Right.

-Cash.

0:37:500:37:56

If you're a gambling man, do you want to do it on the flip of a coin, double or nothing?

0:37:560:38:01

-Would you not do that, seriously?

-No.

0:38:010:38:04

I'm desperate. I'm desperate for some money.

0:38:040:38:07

What's he like?

0:38:070:38:09

'Roger, ten out of ten for effort. But Andy is turning out to be completely disinterested.'

0:38:090:38:15

-That's running like a dream.

-Lovely. Cheers for that.

0:38:150:38:18

OK, my friend, that's it. We're going to try and make some proper money out of somebody.

0:38:180:38:23

Somebody that cares about us impoverished tradesmen.

0:38:230:38:27

I don't carry the money, you see, it's the missus. She ain't here.

0:38:270:38:30

So what do I do? Have I got to wait for her to come home?

0:38:300:38:34

-Seriously?

-Seriously what?

-Where do I get the money?

0:38:350:38:39

-HE LAUGHS

-'This is brilliant. This is turning into a nightmare for Roger,

0:38:390:38:42

-'who might not be making any money at all today.'

-What is going on?

0:38:420:38:47

Right.

0:38:500:38:52

So, er, that's all we want, 75 quid.

0:38:520:38:56

-Sure.

-Cash, yeah, that's all.

0:38:560:38:58

'So, police civil servant Andy Chambers

0:38:580:39:01

'has let in a tricky tradesman to fix a leaky washing machine.

0:39:010:39:05

'Roger has tried to con him with a prop mouse, plus a scheme with traps and ultrasonic gadgets, to no avail.

0:39:050:39:11

'Will he be able to persuade Andy to part with any money today?

0:39:110:39:15

'Andy thinks this is covered by his warranty

0:39:150:39:17

'and doesn't think he should pay Roger for the call-out.'

0:39:170:39:20

-Right. Lovely.

-Cheers. What do we do for the money?

-What money?

0:39:200:39:25

-The 75 quid.

-For what?

-Are you winding me up? For doing that.

0:39:290:39:32

-The call-out.

-What call-out?

0:39:320:39:35

-For the machine.

-There isn't any

-BLEEP

-call-out fee.

0:39:350:39:40

-Where's your paperwork, then?

-I'll go and get it.

-Go on, then.

0:39:410:39:45

I'm losing the plot here. I don't know what's going on.

0:39:500:39:53

I just had a callout to do the job, I've done the job.

0:39:530:39:56

Now I'm being wound up.

0:39:570:39:59

'At last, now you know how it feels, Roger.'

0:40:000:40:03

I don't know what to do. This is turning into nightmare for me.

0:40:100:40:14

He's not even going to pay for me fixing the washing machine.

0:40:140:40:18

Looks like I'm going to come away with nothing. He's tough.

0:40:180:40:22

'Our devious trickster really has met his match today.

0:40:220:40:26

'With his scam lying in ruins, Roger may have no alternative but to leave empty-handed.'

0:40:260:40:32

-Do you want me to send you a bill?

-No.

0:40:320:40:35

'It's clear Andy isn't budging. He's stalling Roger to send the bill anywhere,

0:40:350:40:39

'his insurers, the manufacturers, anywhere,

0:40:390:40:41

'just as long as he doesn't have to pay for it himself, in cash, today.'

0:40:410:40:45

-Yeah, but where do I get it from?

-Whoever calls you out.

0:40:450:40:49

-Are you joking?

-No, no. I thought you were joking.

0:40:490:40:53

-'So that's it for Roger.'

-OK, we're all done. Have we got everything from there?

-Yeah.

0:40:530:40:57

All right. Cheers, mate. I can't believe it.

0:40:570:41:01

'Hurray! Andy has been the very model of a switched-on consumer.

0:41:010:41:06

'He's held his ground and he hasn't fallen for any nonsense.

0:41:060:41:10

'Well done, mate! And with Roger and Luke safely around the corner,

0:41:100:41:13

'it's time for our producer to pay Andy a visit and explain exactly what's been going on.'

0:41:130:41:19

Hi there. I wonder if you could give us a couple of minutes

0:41:240:41:27

to tell you you've actually been set up by your wife.

0:41:270:41:32

-What's this all got to do with?

-I want my mouse back. Where's my mouse?

0:41:320:41:37

-HE LAUGHS

-You are brilliant.

0:41:370:41:40

They did it very well, really. I believed everything.

0:41:400:41:44

-You didn't go for my mouse thing.

-Was that you?

0:41:440:41:47

-Didn't you know about the mouse? Do you know how much it cost?

-I'm still thinking we got mouse problems.

0:41:470:41:52

I wouldn't have parted with anything. But it was, erm,

0:41:520:41:56

like I say, I can quite easily see how people do get conned into it.

0:41:560:42:00

-Very well done. Very well done.

-Thank you.

-Hook, line and sinker, but you weren't getting no money.

0:42:000:42:06

I think definitely with the occupation that I'm in with the Metropolitan Police,

0:42:070:42:12

it makes me more conscious of certainly other scams that are out there.

0:42:120:42:17

It's made me more aware than normal people would be.

0:42:170:42:21

A lot instances that we hear of where con men have done this and done that and it seemed quite easy.

0:42:210:42:27

Thanks for taking it so well, Andy. Now, the vast majority of tradesmen are honest and hardworking.

0:42:280:42:33

It's only a very few who play dirty tricks.

0:42:330:42:36

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

0:42:360:42:40

Thanks for watching and I'll see you next time.

0:42:400:42:42

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

0:42:430:42:48

'by sending our trickster to visit your unsuspecting friends or family,

0:42:480:42:52

'you'll find all the details at:

0:42:520:42:56

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:42:590:43:03

E-mail [email protected]

0:43:030:43:07

.

0:43:070:43:07

Teacher Andrew Hartley from Kent has a small problem with mould behind his washing machine. His brother recommends a tradesman to fix it, but it is Roger who makes the house call. Using smelly cheese and a bottle of water, Roger tries to con Andrew into a damp-proofing job he does not need. Will he pay up?

Plus Andy from Surrey is set up by his wife, who creates a puddle of water and blames it on the washing machine. Roger has various tricks ready to con the consumer, but could Andy turn out to be his toughest challenge yet?

Also, victims of rogue tradesmen in Nottinghamshire discuss how they were taken in by unnecessary roofing and damp-proofing work. The gang responsible pocketed almost 1.5 million pounds from 200 consumers, and were cornered after a mammoth five-year investigation by Trading Standards.