Hidden camera series where an an acting rogue tradesman tries to rip people off in their own homes using well-known con tricks to show us all how easy it can be to be taken in.
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These days, our money has to work even harder for us
and one of our biggest expenditures is on our property.
Last year, we spent a staggering £15 billion on repairs to our homes.
But how can any of us be certain we've not been taken for a ride?
-How much will it cost?
-It's hard to say, but I reckon 325.
-300 quid just for doing that.
-Probably about seven and a half grand.
With audacious secret filming,
we'll reveal just how easy it could be for you to be duped.
-I'm afraid you've been ripped off. He's not a bona fide tradesman.
I knew there was something suspicious.
And we lift the lid on some of the UK's most shocking tradesmen rip-offs.
It was one of the worst conservatories I'd ever seen.
It needed pulling down.
It was basically a death trap.
There's no other word for it - conned.
On today's show:
A social worker from Berkshire drives a hard bargain over a special mould treatment.
But is she smart enough to avoid a rip-off?
-How about two?
Go for 225?
A bit less than that.
The extraordinary tactics of the Bristol traders who lay in wait for people to go out for the day
before ripping up their driveways.
It was impossible to put a car on the drive.
It was impossible to open the garage door.
And prepare for a truly devious scam when a woman from Lancashire falls for every trick in the book.
Do you want us to fit you a doorbell?
Whoa - not good.
Stand by for Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen!
Hello. I don't know about you,
but I don't know a huge amount about trades like roofing or plumbing.
That's why we rely on tradesmen.
We expect them to be professional and to do a good job.
The vast majority of them are exactly that,
professional and hard-working.
It's only a small minority who give tradesmen a bad name
with their dirty tricks.
Today, we're meeting people who've been ripped off by the cowboys.
What's more, with your help,
we'll show you how easy it is to fall for some of the oldest tricks in the tradesmen's books.
People have been setting up their friends and relatives for a visit from our very own tradesman. Why?
To show you how to avoid being taken to the cleaner's.
This is Roger Bisby. He has over 40 years' experience under his builder's belt.
There's nothing he hates more than a dirty trickster
out there to make a fast buck.
But we're asking Roger to go against everything he believes in
and become a dodgy tradesman,
just so we can show you how not to get conned.
We'll create minor household problems and send in Roger to show us all
how easy it is to be ripped off.
It's all being filmed in secret and Roger will be working with our cameraman Luke
who is posing as his apprentice.
We'll find out in a moment where they're springing their first scam.
We all recognise the importance of keeping our homes safe, secure and well-maintained.
The last thing anyone needs is a rogue making them feel unsafe in their own home.
But sadly rogue tradesmen play tricks like this all the time
and Roger's about to try his luck using scare tactics
on a family in Lancashire.
Alex Gornall and Adam Livermore have a surprise in store for Adam's wife, Joy,
who Alex has known since they were three.
Joy is such good fun. She's just a really nice person.
I think she'll be taken in by it. She's a bit gullible.
They're cooking up a scenario involving the boiler.
Adam is telling Joy it's making weird noises.
We've got our own engineer
so we'll say that the engineer can't make it and he's sending a friend round who can do just as good a job.
How very devious!
This is the perfect scenario for Roger.
A noisy boiler suggests carbon monoxide, and that's no joke.
If I can persuade the householder that there's carbon monoxide there,
I'm hoping she'll spend any kind of money to get rid of it.
One of Roger's tricks will be to overcharge for a fancy carbon monoxide detector.
You can also expect him
to flannel Joy about her house having potentially dangerous carbon monoxide levels.
Then he'll pretend the boiler flue is blocked.
Fake blockage tricks are employed by thousands of rogues.
This is Roger's carbon con.
In reality, a routine call-out charge for a boiler service costs around £100.
If he can make another £200 on top,
that's a 200% profit for Roger.
He turns up with Luke promptly at ten o'clock.
Where's the bell?
Do you want us to fit your a doorbell - our first job!
Joy's been told by her husband Adam that Roger is a friend of their regular engineer.
A boiler maintenance man ought to be Gas Safe registered.
But she's not asked to see evidence of this. Roger could be anyone.
-Boiler's here. Something blew, something popped. I don't know.
-OK. Is this running now or not?
-I've turned it off.
-Because it was a bit...
-OK. That's a good idea.
Recce done, his tricks are ready to roll.
-Do you want a cup of tea?
-Yeah, that would be great.
I've never known him refuse a cup of tea!
I'm going to get a detector out and try and simulate some carbon monoxide.
Then we'll go from there.
This is my little detector. DETECTOR BEEPS
It's going to normalise now.
-It gets a general reading.
-It did it. OK.
Now it knows what fresh air is.
But Roger doesn't want his detector to behave normally.
He's rigging it by directing a jet of gas into the sensor.
This will cause the unit to go off even when there isn't a dangerous level of carbon monoxide.
Black. Sorry, black no sugar, yeah. Cheers.
You were nearly caught red-handed there, Roger! Lucky for you,
Joy can't see what you're up to.
I'll just give it a quick test, that's all.
Give it a little test.
DETECTOR TICKS LOUDLY Listen to that.
What a rotter!
This is Roger's cue to start hitting Joy with a right load of old gas.
-Do you get any trouble with this hob?
What's going on, Rog?
I wasn't even looking at that. I just suddenly clicked up a... There's more up here.
This might be producing a bit of carbon monoxide.
A little leak somewhere up there.
That ticking noise is the sound of his rigged gas detector going into overdrive.
Roger's using it a means to pile pressure on Joy,
a common scare tactic.
I went to a house once and looked under the floor. The carbon monoxide was leaking under the floor.
Quite honestly, it's probably not a huge problem if I nip it in the bud.
Roger's implication of carbon monoxide danger in Joy's house may seem cavalier.
But it's just the kind of trick that a cowboy would play.
Isn't it time to try and sell Joy an alarm now?
I could shove a little detector in for you anyway somewhere. Up there's a good idea.
I'll just go and check the flue. If you want to...
..carry on, I'll have a quick look out there.
Come on, Joy! Ask him how much it'll cost!
She's fully committed to the cause.
She appreciates that what I'm saying is entirely true and genuine.
Nobody wants carbon monoxide poisoning.
And the good thing is, she hasn't asked for any indication of money at all.
So it's leaving us a little bit of scope.
There's no end to your tricks, is there, Roger? There are more coming thick and fast.
What we've found is evidence of spiders nesting in the flue here.
How will Joy react to news that she's been conned?
It's hard-earned money, at the end of the day.
Roger's working hard to show us
how devious rogues will stop at nothing to push consumers for business.
Tactics that can be seen clearly in our next story.
The con artists here lay in wait for homeowners to go out
before vandalising their driveways,
trapping them into accepting unwanted work.
We were there to see the culprit get his comeuppance.
Gloucester Crown Court, June 2011.
It's D-Day for one local tradesman, Jim Coffey.
Disguising himself from local press,
he's turning up to hear the verdict against his company, Interlock Drives,
after a campaign for justice headed by local Trading Standards officer Neil Derrick.
We've been aware of Interlock's tactics
which are used against certain vulnerable members of society
for approximately three years.
The tactics seem to centre around using a combination of aggressive practices with customers,
effectively forcing them into having work done by them.
Tricksters like those working for Jim Coffey are a unique breed.
Interlock Drives is not to be confused with other reputable companies of a similar name.
This gang carried out their dirty tricks solely in the Bristol area
and specialised in driveways.
We caught up with two of Jim Coffey's victims, Ruth and Brian.
They asked us not to use their real names
but were happy to tell their stories to stop others suffering the same fate.
They were doing things that I hadn't given permission for.
We were horrified to see they'd already started. The drive was in a complete mess.
Both Ruth and Brian were targeted through cold calling
and given the hard sell for driveway improvements.
The first trick came when the salesman lulled them into thinking they'd get a great low-priced deal
before finding ways to inflate the costs.
He talked me into having my front drive jet-washed.
He said it would cost me £150.
And thinking it would save me work, I agreed to have it done.
Meanwhile, Brian agreed to have his whole driveway replaced
in order to make things easier for himself and his wife who suffers from mobility issues.
The salesman offered a tarmac drive at the bargain price of £1,500.
We were happy with the quote because there was no money up-front.
We were given paperwork with a Bristol address
and a Bristol phone number.
So we were happy to go ahead with the job.
Ruth lives on her own. The salesman from Interlock Drives seized upon that.
He invented a problem in order to charge more money.
He tipped water into the trough beneath her garage door
and claimed that it wasn't draining away.
He said then that I needed to have a drain put in the front drive
to drain all the surplus water away.
He made me feel that I needed to have this done.
I asked how much it would cost
and he said 1,500.
That's a ten-fold increase in revenue
all because of a lie.
In Brian's case, the devious tradesmen lay in wait
for the retired couple to go shopping.
With the coast clear, they started work on the driveway
three days early.
'When we came back, we were horrified to see they'd already started.
'The drive was in a complete mess.
'The top half of the drive, down to the wall there,
'was dug up and there was a big pile of rubble.
'And also the bottom part was dug up'
and then a big pile of stones so it was impossible to put a car on the drive
and it was impossible to open the garage door.
In a way, it coerced them into going ahead.
What option do you have?
"I have a driveway I can't use, so I might as well go ahead with the people who created the problem."
Coffey needed more money from Brian and his wife
so he kept up a display of consumer concern
by claiming that his door-to-door salesman had gone rogue
and would be dismissed.
But putting the mess right would come at a price.
We felt really...stressed.
We didn't really know what to think at the time.
But because we were trapped, we couldn't use the drive at all,
we felt we had no option
but to agree to his price of 2,400
and allow him to put a block drive in.
With Coffey hiking up the price by almost £1,000,
Brian and his wife were frightened at the prospect of being so out of control in their own home.
This was exactly the scenario facing Ruth
as Interlock's conmen continued to lie to her about jobs that needed doing.
The next thing that they spoke to me about was the algae on the outside walls of the house.
Again, I asked how much it was going to cost.
He said he would work it out and let me know the next day.
I went out to see how their work was getting on
and I was so shocked and horrified
that they'd already dug out a trench along the side of the house.
I was getting very concerned and frightened by then.
Two households in Bristol with the owners made to feel like prisoners in their own homes.
But maybe Coffey had been too ambitious.
Both householders had serious alarm bells ringing.
And they now had the good sense to call for help.
We realised we'd been conned.
We didn't really know what we could do about it.
We felt completely trapped.
So I contacted Trading Standards.
And within about half an hour, a representative came
and I was very much relieved
because I had his support
and he asked the company to stop what work they were doing
and to leave the property.
And that I was not to pay them any money
that they said I owed them.
Brian's call to Avon and Somerset Police was also given decisive action.
I spoke to the police.
They said the work had been started within the seven-day cooling-off period.
The following day, when the men turned up, the police also turned up
and arrested everybody
and impounded all the vehicles.
Coffey's sales leaflets
had stated no down payments, no deposits,
nothing to pay until the job is completed.
But it backfired on him with Brian and Ruth because both twigged the scams
before paying Coffey.
Although they lost £4,000 between them clearing up all the damage.
Hopefully no-one else will fall for these kinds of tricks in the future.
Which brings us neatly back to the rogue tradesman
and his court appearance in June 2011.
Were the victims' wishes fulfilled of seeing justice done?
Mr Coffey's just been sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
A substantial sentence. It's been a long time coming.
We've taken about two years to get here.
And we're very relieved for the victims that this matter has been closed now.
As the people of Gloucester enjoy a well-earned "Coffey" break,
Brian and Ruth have learned a great lesson from their tangle with Interlock Drives.
Never take door-to-door salesmen at face value.
When the salesman came and showed me the brochure,
it looked very professional, the previous work that they'd done
on other properties.
And at that stage, I thought that everything was above board.
This is why it's so important that when a trader knocks on your door,
you don't agree to anything in haste
and you check the company out thoroughly before agreeing to any work.
Later, we have another extraordinary case study as a consumer from Gloucester
finds a dodgy carpenter behaving in the most reckless way.
He had a piece of wood over his right knee and he was sawing into it over the bed cover.
At that time, I called the police.
Plus, in our quest to show you how not to be ripped off,
Roger has some devious tricks up his sleeve for an on-the-ball consumer in Berkshire.
That's hot work. That's worth 225 quid of anybody's money!
First, time to find out whether businesswoman Joy from Lancashire
falls for our cowboy's dirty tricks.
Roger is trying to make her think she has a gas leak.
Might be producing a bit of carbon monoxide.
Joy is so keen to protect her home from harm
she's taken Roger at face value. She hasn't asked how much it'll cost
which leaves her wide open when he finally presents her with the bill.
He's getting ready to play his second dirty trick,
faking a blockage in the gas flue.
Which could be the cause of a leak he's lying about!
I love a bit of that.
Right. Now we've got to find a bit of spiders' nest material.
Yes, you heard. Roger's going to claim that this flue
which isn't blocked at all is choked with a nest of spiders!
Actually, it's just some weeds he's picked up.
What we've found is evidence of spiders nesting in the flue here.
They just drag it in.
Spiders, wasps and ants have all been know to build nests in flues before now.
But businesswoman Joy looks incredulous. Perhaps she won't accept Roger's cheat.
They build nests. It's a nice place to keep warm!
Hmm. If she's doubtful, she's saying nothing.
Let's hope that doesn't cost her dearly.
I'm going to switch the boiler back on and retest the carbon monoxide levels
to check everything's OK.
As reassurance, I'm going to leave her a carbon monoxide detector
at the bargain price of 50 quid.
It cost me £12.50.
A-ha. So trick number three is all ready to be sprung.
Let's see how Joy reacts to the old overpriced gadget trick.
-This is a carbon monoxide detector.
If I put one of these up near the boiler,
it's only cos that one was blocked and that was causing the problem,
but in future if you get any problem,
this will go off.
-That's there. Wonderful.
-You're all done.
-Do you want a bill or do you want to pay cash?
I've totted it up for cash.
We'll do it for 400, all right?
Oh, that's got to hurt!
-I've broken it down if you want to know what it's all about.
Call out charge... Radiator...
Today, Joy Livermore let an unknown plumber into her home without checking his ID
or asking for a quote.
All he's done is bring in a £12.50 carbon monoxide alarm
and pretend to clear a blockage which wasn't there.
It looks like she's fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.
-Boiler and hob testing.
-Brilliant. Thank you.
-40, 60, 80,
20, 40, 60, 80, two.
20, 40, 60, 80, three.
-20, 40, 60, 80, four.
-Lovely. Cheers. Yeah.
Thank you very much.
Joy's handed over £400 in cash for work that should have cost around £200.
Joy didn't get any other quotes. She never asked how much the job would cost.
In fact, she didn't ask any questions at all,
leaving herself wide open to be totally ripped off.
With Roger now out of sight, it's time for our producer
to call on Joy and reveal the truth of their dirty tricks.
Hi, there. Sorry to bother you.
We're from the BBC.
-We're investigating builders, tradesmen...
..who don't do very good jobs, basically.
We've been asking your neighbours if they've had any experiences. Have you had any?
That don't do a good job? I've just had a plumber round just now.
Basically, my boiler blew yesterday.
He fixed it. It was cobwebs in my flute. It was blocked.
I'm not au fait on my DIY things.
It wasn't cheap. That's what came to mind. It was £400.
I'm afraid to tell you that you could have paid £400
for not very much work at all.
No, I think... Right. Yeah. OK.
It's hard-earned money at the end of the day.
But you put your trust, don't you, in people.
Oh, Adam! It's my husband, actually.
Adam and best friend Alex can't wait to let Joy off the hook.
I'm afraid you've been set up.
You are awful! 'He was convincing'
when he talked about carbon monoxide.
I was totally gullible.
What I'm going to do for you here, look...
Cos this hurt me more than anything.
'I didn't see it coming.'
It was only when I got the bill, that's when I started to think.
Something just unsettled me there.
I thought I'd have to question that when my husband got home.
-Who are these guys?
And I look like this?!
In future, I'll make sure that I get a proper receipt and their proper details.
And just be a bit more aware of the jobs they're doing, really.
A bit more knowledge myself.
Joy was such a good sport, there, but she could have done so much more.
And we could all learn something from that.
As well as asking for ID, always ask plenty of questions.
And never let a tradesman tackle any job
without getting a written quotation.
If anything does go wrong, don't be afraid to call for help.
Your local Trading Standards will offer advice.
Rogue tradesmen often take minor household issues
and turn them into massive con tricks.
Just such an issue is mould. The NHS advises that spores from mould
can cause allergic reactions in some people.
The best way to stop that is to keep your home dry and well-ventilated to prevent condensation.
Roger's off to meet a sensible, strong-willed consumer
to see whether she'll be taken in.
Social worker Stephanie Gums from Berkshire has three daughters
and 20-year-old Carly is setting her up today.
She's a person who believes she knows everything about everything.
She's never wrong, according to her. She's always right.
Stephanie sounds like she could be more than a match for Roger.
There is a mould problem in her bathroom. What tricks does he have up his sleeve?
I'm going to try and persuade the householder that what she's got is toxic mould.
And it's a danger to her and her household and needs to be treated immediately.
I've got my partner in crime, Luke. What's this, Luke?
This is a theatrical smoke machine, used for TV dramas and film.
-Like you get in a disco?
Actually it'll do nothing at all. We'll fill the place with smoke
and she'll think it's killing off the fungus
and then we can charge her as much as possible for as little as possible!
Cunning. And they put a fake toxic sticker on the side.
That'll help their trick seem more convincing.
The first, to carry out some bogus tests
and use scare tactics to make out that her mould is far worse than it really is.
A health risk that needs special attention.
Then Roger will unveil his fumigator and pretend it'll dispose of the mould.
He'll wear protective clothing, even though the smoke won't actually do anything.
Stephanie's mouldy ceiling would be reparable
with a good scrub and a coat of paint. With goods and labour, that's around £80.
But Roger's hoping to smoke £300 out of her for this utterly pointless job.
A massive price hike, the rotter!
When Roger and Luke arrive, just after three o'clock,
they're shown straight to the fungus-ridden bathroom.
No-one's asked them for ID yet. They've waltzed right in.
The last contractor told me it was because I haven't got a window in here.
-There's loads of bathrooms built without windows now.
I think Roger's now ready to play a dirty trick.
This mould, if we don't get rid of this mould now, it's a real health hazard.
They talk about a toxic mould everywhere.
It's in the papers. It's a growing problem.
Basically, it's bad for your health.
-I don't know if you suffer from asthma, or the kids do.
-The children do.
Do they? They get asthma? Well, that's probably... You know.
I'll carry out a test and see what the toxic levels on it are.
Roger's using scare tactics about toxic mould.
He starts his con trick by pretending to test the toxicity
with one of his many gadgets.
What's it really need, Rog? How's it looking?
-What does it need?
It needs a good scrub with some bleach!
-Let's go back out to the van.
So what you're saying is that Stephanie could do this herself for nothing?
It could do with a proper bit of insulation, a proper cleaning off.
They need to improve the ventilation.
It's an unhealthy situation to be in.
Because I'm a cowboy, I'm not going to do any of that.
I'm just going to puff a bit of smoke in there, tell them that's cured the problem
and that it will kill the mould
and then I'll take 300 quid, if I can,
and we'll get out of there.
You mean when you run off with her hard-earned cash!
She won't see you for dust, Roger.
I just took a little test on that mould. It's pretty horrible stuff.
-What I'll do is clean it off for you.
-It's been cleaned off before.
I cleaned it before with a solution.
I can't remember what it was. An anti-mould solution.
-You use it with water.
-Yes, just pat it on.
Nobody's put a smoke thing in there, have they?
-Like a fumigation thing.
Well, if I do that for you,
it will kill all that mould off completely.
You little liar, Roger!
That fumigation machine has as much chance of dissipating the mould
as Roger would by blowing on it! Even so,
he wants to walk away with £300 of Stephanie's hard-earned cash.
Will she be as sharp as daughter Carly thinks?
I suspect she might. You may have met your match, Roger.
It's pretty horrible stuff.
-I'll have to put a mask on to do it.
-What organisation are you from?
You haven't given me a card or told me where you're from.
We're just mould... Pest and mould contractors.
-Do you have a card?
-Yeah. I'll go and get it.
Good for you, Stephanie. At last a consumer who's demanded to see our tradesman's credentials.
Which leaves him slightly on the back foot!
Will he now be rumbled by the "no nonsense" Stephanie?
I've just found out. I've just had a look in the diary.
I got it, um...from the electrician.
-I think it's cos the council...
-It's a referral.
My son-in-law has one.
Um... I think the reason was that the council contractors didn't solve the problem for you.
Lucky escape, Roger. She's fallen for your fake card and referral patter!
But I don't think you're in the clear just yet.
What we'll have to do with this is give it the smoke treatment, fumigation treatment.
-But we guarantee that we can get rid of it.
What's your hourly rate? There must be an hourly rate.
Well, there's a call-out. Then we've got the cost of the equipment
which is quite a lot.
Quite a lot? Look at our scammer squirm!
Stephanie's asking all the right questions and Roger seems totally unprepared.
Then our hourly rate. We're £50 an hour each.
-This young man is your apprentice, so he can't be £50 an hour!
I don't think I've ever seen Roger in such a spot!
I'm loving this!
Things will get more heated for our con man.
Haggle time. It's got to be a bit less than that, I'm afraid.
And how will Stephanie react when we tell her what's really gone on?
I saw his card, asked for his ID and you say he's not legit?
I love it when the public fight back!
Next, we meet a man from Gloucestershire
who's just as determined as Stephanie
not to be taken for a ride.
He came up against a really devious bunch of crooks.
But fortunately, crime doesn't pay!
This south Gloucestershire industrial estate
housed one of the most devious criminal gangs I've heard of.
The local police have just finished their investigation into three cowboys.
Mark Dixon, Nicholas Harris and Matthew Higgins.
They operated here for five years and targeted more than 50 householders
as Investigating Officer DCI Sellwood explains.
It wasn't dodgy builders
or not very good builders,
who just didn't do what they set out to do.
They set out to defraud the customers from the very outset.
Acting under the company name of C.M.D Management,
Dixon, Harris and Higgins pocketed almost one million pounds
yes, one million pounds,
before David Sellwood's team caught up with them.
They ran a sophisticated business tailor-made to ensnare even the most cautious consumer.
A couple of the people that they used searched planning applications.
So when they found that members of the public had secured planning permission
for an extension or a new-build,
they would cold call the customer
and make them an offer to undertake their work for them
at a very competitive price.
This is how they were able to start playing dirty tricks on 63-year-old Mike Stanley.
In 2005, he secured planning permission to create a new bedroom
by adding a one-storey extension above his kitchen.
When C.M.D's researchers found out,
he was targeted by their salesmen.
They had all the references, the photographs,
the back-up, telephone numbers, et cetera.
I did phone the numbers given to me from the office and they did sound like a reputable company.
People answered with the name of the company.
Mike was wise to check, but he couldn't have known
that this was all a front
and that he was about to sign up to a company which would turn his whole life upside-down.
The quote I received from them was just under £15,000.
When I decided to go with them, I paid £2,200 deposit.
They came in October 2006
to actually physically do some work to start the building.
Customers would pay up-front for work that was going to be done.
They'd phone up on a regular basis and say they had difficulties with cash flow or suppliers.
Would they pay a bit more, pay a bit more.
People were persuaded to do so in the hope that they would get their work completed.
These tried and tested tricks are often used by disreputable builders
but Mike had no idea he was being strung along.
The work dragged on for the best part of nine months
but all they'd built was the facade.
None of the internal workings had been installed.
They started demanding more and more money from me
which I was refusing to pay up.
By then, they started to threaten me with the contract that I'd signed
by saying that stage payments were correct and they wanted money up-front
at any stage they demanded it.
I said they weren't getting any money out of me till I saw proper progress.
Good on Mike for standing up for his rights,
particularly with a bunch of tradesmen trampling around his home.
A bunch of cowboys who were taking him for a ride.
There was a supposed carpenter at work on the bed. There were no dust sheets around.
He was sat on the quilt, he had a cigarette in his mouth.
He had a piece of wood over his knee and he was sawing into it over the bed cover.
I looked at him, swore at him and told him to get out of my house.
At that time I called the building authorities and the police.
He turfed out the rogue tradesmen but lost £11,000.
He had to find another £11,000 to put their work right.
But incredibly the rogues still had an extraordinary and devious trick to play.
I had letters and leaflets dropped through the letterbox
saying that these people had heard
that the builders who were originally here had been arrested
and work had been stopped.
And that these people had also been affected by that company
and were offering their services to me.
I got on to the police again on this one to back it up
and it turned out that they were the same group of people
trying to come in through what you'd call the back door!
The cheek of it! It took the police investigation into C.M.D Management
and the court case against Dixon, Harris and Higgins
to bring some light back into Mike's life.
The three people who were convicted had got eight, seven and six years individually.
I was really elated.
After an investigation lasting three years
and discovering more than 50 victims,
it was also a success story for DCI Sellwood and his team.
The police aren't supposed to say they're happy with what the judge has done,
but I can say the victims were delighted with the sentences.
Mike and other victims may receive some of their money back
in a "proceeds of crime" hearing.
It's clear that taking care with our private data is paramount.
Always read the small print.
I read and read and double read
because I've been scammed once
and I've been conned and hurt. It's upset my life
and I'll do my best not to let it happen again.
An extraordinary story. As well as triple-checking any leaflets, quotes and paperwork
given to you by tradesmen,
don't forget you will be able to check with your local Trading Standards for advice.
Now, what about Stephanie in Berkshire? Will she fall for our tradesman's dirty tricks?
Her bathroom ceiling was mouldy, but not dangerous.
After a bogus test, Roger's now stringing her along
that he can dispose of her mould with a special fumigator.
But Stephanie's no push-over. She's demanded to know who he is.
What organisation are you from? You haven't given me a card or told me where you're from.
She's rubbished the fee he wants to charge for Luke's time.
-This young man is your apprentice, so he can't be £50 an hour!
And she's not happy about the full price he wants to charge.
-Haggle time. It's got to be less than that, I'm afraid.
Supposing I knock 50 off? 250.
How about two?
How about two and I'll say go upstairs now.
-I'll give you a biscuit.
-225? Want to go for 225?
-225. You're a very good businesswoman.
At last, Roger has a bogus job, even if it is for £75 less than he wanted.
She's gone for it. She's beat me down a bit.
So she thinks she's getting a bargain, which is a good thing.
But still far too much money for a job which is totally useless.
But we'll go and have a go now and we want to be in and out.
This ghostbuster-like outfit is certainly impressive
but completely unnecessary. The smoke wouldn't hurt a fly, never mind a robust chap like Roger.
But it's all part of his dirty trick.
Before turning on the smoke, Roger wiped the ceiling with bleach.
If Stephanie wants to inspect his work later,
and something tells me she might,
then this deception will help.
But she could have done this and saved herself a lot of hassle!
Let's get on that smoke machine, mate.
Finally time for the smoke machine to puff into action.
Wa-hey! Now it's away!
And time for Roger to take a well-earned rest!
Brought a book, Rog?
If there's anything left over, it's dead.
That's hot work! That's worth 225 quid of anybody's money!
I've put a load of theatrical smoke around the bathroom and it looks pretty dramatic.
I told her not to go in the room, which is great. She has to leave it at least two hours
and then put the extractor fan on for an hour, then she can go in.
That way, we'll be over the hill and far away by the time she starts to smell a rat!
Rog sets about writing an invoice
but Stephanie clearly does smell a rat!
She wants to check she's not being taken for a ride.
She even calls her daughter to reassure herself that Roger is bona fide.
-How's the work going?
-I haven't seen it. They're doing the invoice.
Go and have a look if you want to.
-I will have a look.
-Have a quick look but don't stay in there too long.
Cos if you die, I don't want to...
I'm going to have a quick look.
Uh-oh, Roger. Could this be the end of the line for your smoking tricks?
Go with her, Luke.
Today Stephanie Gumms waited in for a tradesman to look at her mouldy ceiling.
The slippery scammer misled her about the toxic quality of the mould
and advised her to fumigate it.
She wisely asked for ID and haggled over the price
but finally consented to the work.
So, will the hard-to-please Stephanie be impressed enough
to return with the money?
I'll put the total in, 225, all right?
And then I'll recommend the insulation, all right?
I'll photocopy it.
Astounding! £225 for wiping the ceiling,
a job Stephanie could have done for less than a fiver!
Not bad for an hour's work!
Better hurry, Rog. I think Stephanie might smell a rat!
With Roger out of sight, our producer must let Stephanie know
the true story of his work on her bathroom.
Hello. We're from the BBC. I've got a few questions.
-Have you had any work done lately?
-This morning, in fact.
-What stuff did you have done?
The bathroom walls. Clearing mould from the bathroom ceilings.
-Do you know something that I don't know?
-Did you pay in cash?
-Yes, I did.
-And it was over 200?
-225 I paid.
I have to tell you we're following a gentleman who's not a bona fide tradesman.
-Was his name Roger?
-Yes, that's right.
I saw his card and asked for his ID. So you say he's not legit?
I'm afraid to tell you you could have paid over £200 for absolutely no work whatsoever.
What's the point in you following him if you spot him go to people's houses,
defraud people and you come round after to film?
-We'll try to help you get your money back.
-That sounds better.
-How do you feel?
-I feel quite gutted.
I went to the bathroom when they were still here
and his apprentice followed me...
This is the man here!
Don't worry, Stephanie. Roger and your daughter Carly
are heading back with your cash!
You've been the victim of a set-up.
Oh, my God!
I feel quite a fool, really, because I'm very vigilant.
He was convincing, but I was a bit cautious, a bit dubious,
and that's why I asked for his credentials.
Because he produced them... If he hadn't, I wouldn't have gone for this.
-She's still embarrassed.
-You shouldn't be. You did very well.
-You checked my ID.
-It's not worth what it's written on!
-I know. It's rubbish!
Even though I thought it wasn't a good idea, I still fell for it.
You were good to check it and you did get a bit of discount!
That is your money back, plus the tenner you gave me!
For a drink, I said!
There you go.
In future, that wouldn't happen to me in future.
They won't be getting past my door.
But he was very friendly. I probably fell for that, too.
He was very friendly and he sold himself, really.
He knew all the facts of what he was talking about.
Thanks for taking it so well, Stephanie.
Roger's played the rogue for us today. He's normally honest and hard-working
like the vast majority of tradesmen who you can rely on.
It's only a small minority who let the side down.
Just remember, if in doubt, keep them out!
Thanks for watching. See you next time.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
An audacious hidden camera series with Chris Hollins. An acting rogue tradesman tries to rip people off in their own homes using well-known con tricks to show us all how easy it can be to be taken in.
Roger turns up the heat about a pretend carbon monoxide leak, in the home of Lancashire business-woman Joy. Will she pay him a fortune to remove the spiders' nest that he claims is blocking her boiler flue? He has more hot air in store for Berkshire social worker Stephanie - but she subjects him to tough questions when he tries to fumigate her bathroom as a cure for her mouldy ceiling.
Plus, our cameras are present to catch the conviction of a Bristol driveway rogue, whose tradesmen ploughed up people's driveways when they'd gone out shopping for the day.