Episode 3 Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen


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Episode 3

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

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and one of our biggest expenditures is on our property.

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Last year, we spent a staggering £15 billion on repairs to our homes.

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But how can any of us be certain we've not been taken for a ride?

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-How much will it cost?

-It's hard to say, but I reckon 325.

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-300 quid just for doing that.

-Probably about seven and a half grand.

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With audacious secret filming,

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we'll reveal just how easy it could be for you to be duped.

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

-He's not?

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I knew there was something suspicious.

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BLEEP BLEEP

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And we lift the lid on some of the UK's most shocking tradesmen rip-offs.

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It was one of the worst conservatories I'd ever seen.

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It needed pulling down.

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It was basically a death trap.

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There's no other word for it - conned.

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On today's show:

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A social worker from Berkshire drives a hard bargain over a special mould treatment.

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But is she smart enough to avoid a rip-off?

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-250.

-How about two?

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Go for 225?

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A bit less than that.

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The extraordinary tactics of the Bristol traders who lay in wait for people to go out for the day

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before ripping up their driveways.

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It was impossible to put a car on the drive.

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It was impossible to open the garage door.

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And prepare for a truly devious scam when a woman from Lancashire falls for every trick in the book.

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Do you want us to fit you a doorbell?

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Whoa - not good.

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Stand by for Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen!

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Hello. I don't know about you,

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

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That's why we rely on tradesmen.

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We expect them to be professional and to do a good job.

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The vast majority of them are exactly that,

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professional and hard-working.

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It's only a small minority who give tradesmen a bad name

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with their dirty tricks.

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

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What's more, with your help,

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we'll show you how easy it is to fall for some of the oldest tricks in the tradesmen's books.

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

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To show you how to avoid being taken to the cleaner's.

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This is Roger Bisby. He has over 40 years' experience under his builder's belt.

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There's nothing he hates more than a dirty trickster

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out there to make a fast buck.

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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'll create minor household problems and send in Roger to show us all

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how easy it is to be ripped off.

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It's all being filmed in secret and Roger will be working with our cameraman Luke

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who is posing as his apprentice.

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We'll find out in a moment where they're springing their first scam.

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We all recognise the importance of keeping our homes safe, secure and well-maintained.

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The last thing anyone needs is a rogue making them feel unsafe in their own home.

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But sadly rogue tradesmen play tricks like this all the time

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and Roger's about to try his luck using scare tactics

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on a family in Lancashire.

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Alex Gornall and Adam Livermore have a surprise in store for Adam's wife, Joy,

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who Alex has known since they were three.

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Joy is such good fun. She's just a really nice person.

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I think she'll be taken in by it. She's a bit gullible.

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They're cooking up a scenario involving the boiler.

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Adam is telling Joy it's making weird noises.

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We've got our own engineer

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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.

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How very devious!

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This is the perfect scenario for Roger.

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A noisy boiler suggests carbon monoxide, and that's no joke.

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If I can persuade the householder that there's carbon monoxide there,

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I'm hoping she'll spend any kind of money to get rid of it.

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One of Roger's tricks will be to overcharge for a fancy carbon monoxide detector.

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You can also expect him

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to flannel Joy about her house having potentially dangerous carbon monoxide levels.

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Then he'll pretend the boiler flue is blocked.

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Fake blockage tricks are employed by thousands of rogues.

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This is Roger's carbon con.

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In reality, a routine call-out charge for a boiler service costs around £100.

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If he can make another £200 on top,

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that's a 200% profit for Roger.

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He turns up with Luke promptly at ten o'clock.

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Where's the bell?

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-Hello.

-Hi.

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Do you want us to fit your a doorbell - our first job!

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Joy's been told by her husband Adam that Roger is a friend of their regular engineer.

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A boiler maintenance man ought to be Gas Safe registered.

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But she's not asked to see evidence of this. Roger could be anyone.

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-Boiler.

-Boiler's here. Something blew, something popped. I don't know.

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-OK. Is this running now or not?

-I've turned it off.

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-Because it was a bit...

-OK. That's a good idea.

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Recce done, his tricks are ready to roll.

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-Do you want a cup of tea?

-Yeah, that would be great.

-Yeah.

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I've never known him refuse a cup of tea!

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I'm going to get a detector out and try and simulate some carbon monoxide.

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Then we'll go from there.

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This is my little detector. DETECTOR BEEPS

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It's going to normalise now.

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-It gets a general reading.

-It did it. OK.

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Now it knows what fresh air is.

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But Roger doesn't want his detector to behave normally.

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He's rigging it by directing a jet of gas into the sensor.

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This will cause the unit to go off even when there isn't a dangerous level of carbon monoxide.

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Black. Sorry, black no sugar, yeah. Cheers.

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You were nearly caught red-handed there, Roger! Lucky for you,

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Joy can't see what you're up to.

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I'll just give it a quick test, that's all.

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Give it a little test.

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DETECTOR TICKS LOUDLY Listen to that.

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Whoa!

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What a rotter!

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This is Roger's cue to start hitting Joy with a right load of old gas.

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-Do you get any trouble with this hob?

-No.

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What's going on, Rog?

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I wasn't even looking at that. I just suddenly clicked up a... There's more up here.

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DETECTOR WHIRRS

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This might be producing a bit of carbon monoxide.

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A little leak somewhere up there.

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That ticking noise is the sound of his rigged gas detector going into overdrive.

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Roger's using it a means to pile pressure on Joy,

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a common scare tactic.

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I went to a house once and looked under the floor. The carbon monoxide was leaking under the floor.

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Quite honestly, it's probably not a huge problem if I nip it in the bud.

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Roger's implication of carbon monoxide danger in Joy's house may seem cavalier.

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But it's just the kind of trick that a cowboy would play.

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Isn't it time to try and sell Joy an alarm now?

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I could shove a little detector in for you anyway somewhere. Up there's a good idea.

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I'll just go and check the flue. If you want to...

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..carry on, I'll have a quick look out there.

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Come on, Joy! Ask him how much it'll cost!

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She's fully committed to the cause.

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She appreciates that what I'm saying is entirely true and genuine.

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Nobody wants carbon monoxide poisoning.

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And the good thing is, she hasn't asked for any indication of money at all.

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So it's leaving us a little bit of scope.

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There's no end to your tricks, is there, Roger? There are more coming thick and fast.

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What we've found is evidence of spiders nesting in the flue here.

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How will Joy react to news that she's been conned?

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It's hard-earned money, at the end of the day.

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Roger's working hard to show us

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how devious rogues will stop at nothing to push consumers for business.

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Tactics that can be seen clearly in our next story.

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The con artists here lay in wait for homeowners to go out

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before vandalising their driveways,

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trapping them into accepting unwanted work.

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We were there to see the culprit get his comeuppance.

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Gloucester Crown Court, June 2011.

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It's D-Day for one local tradesman, Jim Coffey.

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Disguising himself from local press,

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he's turning up to hear the verdict against his company, Interlock Drives,

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after a campaign for justice headed by local Trading Standards officer Neil Derrick.

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We've been aware of Interlock's tactics

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which are used against certain vulnerable members of society

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for approximately three years.

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The tactics seem to centre around using a combination of aggressive practices with customers,

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effectively forcing them into having work done by them.

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Tricksters like those working for Jim Coffey are a unique breed.

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Interlock Drives is not to be confused with other reputable companies of a similar name.

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This gang carried out their dirty tricks solely in the Bristol area

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and specialised in driveways.

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We caught up with two of Jim Coffey's victims, Ruth and Brian.

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They asked us not to use their real names

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but were happy to tell their stories to stop others suffering the same fate.

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They were doing things that I hadn't given permission for.

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We were horrified to see they'd already started. The drive was in a complete mess.

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Both Ruth and Brian were targeted through cold calling

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and given the hard sell for driveway improvements.

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The first trick came when the salesman lulled them into thinking they'd get a great low-priced deal

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before finding ways to inflate the costs.

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He talked me into having my front drive jet-washed.

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He said it would cost me £150.

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And thinking it would save me work, I agreed to have it done.

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Meanwhile, Brian agreed to have his whole driveway replaced

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in order to make things easier for himself and his wife who suffers from mobility issues.

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The salesman offered a tarmac drive at the bargain price of £1,500.

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We were happy with the quote because there was no money up-front.

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We were given paperwork with a Bristol address

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and a Bristol phone number.

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So we were happy to go ahead with the job.

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Ruth lives on her own. The salesman from Interlock Drives seized upon that.

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He invented a problem in order to charge more money.

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He tipped water into the trough beneath her garage door

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and claimed that it wasn't draining away.

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Unbelievable!

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He said then that I needed to have a drain put in the front drive

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to drain all the surplus water away.

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He made me feel that I needed to have this done.

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I asked how much it would cost

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and he said 1,500.

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That's a ten-fold increase in revenue

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all because of a lie.

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In Brian's case, the devious tradesmen lay in wait

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for the retired couple to go shopping.

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With the coast clear, they started work on the driveway

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three days early.

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'When we came back, we were horrified to see they'd already started.

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'The drive was in a complete mess.

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'The top half of the drive, down to the wall there,

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'was dug up and there was a big pile of rubble.

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'And also the bottom part was dug up'

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and then a big pile of stones so it was impossible to put a car on the drive

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and it was impossible to open the garage door.

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In a way, it coerced them into going ahead.

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What option do you have?

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"I have a driveway I can't use, so I might as well go ahead with the people who created the problem."

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Coffey needed more money from Brian and his wife

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so he kept up a display of consumer concern

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by claiming that his door-to-door salesman had gone rogue

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and would be dismissed.

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But putting the mess right would come at a price.

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We felt really...stressed.

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Upset.

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Annoyed.

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We didn't really know what to think at the time.

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But because we were trapped, we couldn't use the drive at all,

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we felt we had no option

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but to agree to his price of 2,400

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and allow him to put a block drive in.

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With Coffey hiking up the price by almost £1,000,

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Brian and his wife were frightened at the prospect of being so out of control in their own home.

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This was exactly the scenario facing Ruth

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as Interlock's conmen continued to lie to her about jobs that needed doing.

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The next thing that they spoke to me about was the algae on the outside walls of the house.

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Again, I asked how much it was going to cost.

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He said he would work it out and let me know the next day.

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I went out to see how their work was getting on

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and I was so shocked and horrified

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that they'd already dug out a trench along the side of the house.

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I was getting very concerned and frightened by then.

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Two households in Bristol with the owners made to feel like prisoners in their own homes.

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But maybe Coffey had been too ambitious.

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Both householders had serious alarm bells ringing.

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And they now had the good sense to call for help.

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We realised we'd been conned.

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We didn't really know what we could do about it.

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We felt completely trapped.

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So I contacted Trading Standards.

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And within about half an hour, a representative came

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and I was very much relieved

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because I had his support

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and he asked the company to stop what work they were doing

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and to leave the property.

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And that I was not to pay them any money

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that they said I owed them.

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Brian's call to Avon and Somerset Police was also given decisive action.

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I spoke to the police.

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They said the work had been started within the seven-day cooling-off period.

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The following day, when the men turned up, the police also turned up

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and arrested everybody

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and impounded all the vehicles.

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Coffey's sales leaflets

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had stated no down payments, no deposits,

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nothing to pay until the job is completed.

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But it backfired on him with Brian and Ruth because both twigged the scams

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before paying Coffey.

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Although they lost £4,000 between them clearing up all the damage.

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Hopefully no-one else will fall for these kinds of tricks in the future.

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Which brings us neatly back to the rogue tradesman

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and his court appearance in June 2011.

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Were the victims' wishes fulfilled of seeing justice done?

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Mr Coffey's just been sentenced to three years and four months in prison.

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A substantial sentence. It's been a long time coming.

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We've taken about two years to get here.

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And we're very relieved for the victims that this matter has been closed now.

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As the people of Gloucester enjoy a well-earned "Coffey" break,

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Brian and Ruth have learned a great lesson from their tangle with Interlock Drives.

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Never take door-to-door salesmen at face value.

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When the salesman came and showed me the brochure,

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it looked very professional, the previous work that they'd done

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on other properties.

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And at that stage, I thought that everything was above board.

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This is why it's so important that when a trader knocks on your door,

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you don't agree to anything in haste

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and you check the company out thoroughly before agreeing to any work.

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Later, we have another extraordinary case study as a consumer from Gloucester

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finds a dodgy carpenter behaving in the most reckless way.

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He had a piece of wood over his right knee and he was sawing into it over the bed cover.

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At that time, I called the police.

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

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Roger has some devious tricks up his sleeve for an on-the-ball consumer in Berkshire.

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That's hot work. That's worth 225 quid of anybody's money!

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First, time to find out whether businesswoman Joy from Lancashire

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falls for our cowboy's dirty tricks.

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Roger is trying to make her think she has a gas leak.

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Might be producing a bit of carbon monoxide.

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Joy is so keen to protect her home from harm

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she's taken Roger at face value. She hasn't asked how much it'll cost

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which leaves her wide open when he finally presents her with the bill.

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He's getting ready to play his second dirty trick,

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faking a blockage in the gas flue.

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Which could be the cause of a leak he's lying about!

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Hmm. Look.

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I love a bit of that.

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Right. Now we've got to find a bit of spiders' nest material.

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Yes, you heard. Roger's going to claim that this flue

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which isn't blocked at all is choked with a nest of spiders!

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Actually, it's just some weeds he's picked up.

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What we've found is evidence of spiders nesting in the flue here.

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They just drag it in.

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Spiders, wasps and ants have all been know to build nests in flues before now.

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But businesswoman Joy looks incredulous. Perhaps she won't accept Roger's cheat.

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They build nests. It's a nice place to keep warm!

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Hmm. If she's doubtful, she's saying nothing.

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Let's hope that doesn't cost her dearly.

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I'm going to switch the boiler back on and retest the carbon monoxide levels

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to check everything's OK.

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As reassurance, I'm going to leave her a carbon monoxide detector

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at the bargain price of 50 quid.

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It cost me £12.50.

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A-ha. So trick number three is all ready to be sprung.

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Let's see how Joy reacts to the old overpriced gadget trick.

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-This is a carbon monoxide detector.

-Right.

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If I put one of these up near the boiler,

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it's only cos that one was blocked and that was causing the problem,

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but in future if you get any problem,

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this will go off.

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-That's there. Wonderful.

-You're all done.

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-Do you want a bill or do you want to pay cash?

-Pay cash.

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OK.

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I've totted it up for cash.

0:19:330:19:36

We'll do it for 400, all right?

0:19:360:19:38

Oh, that's got to hurt!

0:19:380:19:40

-400?

-I've broken it down if you want to know what it's all about.

0:19:400:19:45

Call out charge... Radiator...

0:19:450:19:47

Today, Joy Livermore let an unknown plumber into her home without checking his ID

0:19:470:19:53

or asking for a quote.

0:19:530:19:55

All he's done is bring in a £12.50 carbon monoxide alarm

0:19:550:19:59

and pretend to clear a blockage which wasn't there.

0:19:590:20:02

It looks like she's fallen for it, hook, line and sinker.

0:20:020:20:06

-Boiler and hob testing.

-That's it.

-OK.

0:20:070:20:12

-Brilliant. Thank you.

-40, 60, 80,

0:20:120:20:16

one.

0:20:160:20:17

20, 40, 60, 80, two.

0:20:170:20:19

20, 40, 60, 80, three.

0:20:190:20:23

-20, 40, 60, 80, four.

-Lovely. Cheers. Yeah.

0:20:230:20:29

Thank you very much.

0:20:290:20:31

Joy's handed over £400 in cash for work that should have cost around £200.

0:20:310:20:37

Joy didn't get any other quotes. She never asked how much the job would cost.

0:20:400:20:44

In fact, she didn't ask any questions at all,

0:20:440:20:47

leaving herself wide open to be totally ripped off.

0:20:470:20:50

With Roger now out of sight, it's time for our producer

0:20:500:20:54

to call on Joy and reveal the truth of their dirty tricks.

0:20:540:20:57

Hi, there. Sorry to bother you.

0:20:580:21:01

We're from the BBC.

0:21:010:21:03

-We're investigating builders, tradesmen...

-Right.

0:21:030:21:07

..who don't do very good jobs, basically.

0:21:070:21:10

We've been asking your neighbours if they've had any experiences. Have you had any?

0:21:100:21:15

That don't do a good job? I've just had a plumber round just now.

0:21:150:21:19

Basically, my boiler blew yesterday.

0:21:190:21:22

He fixed it. It was cobwebs in my flute. It was blocked.

0:21:220:21:28

I'm not au fait on my DIY things.

0:21:280:21:32

It wasn't cheap. That's what came to mind. It was £400.

0:21:320:21:36

I'm afraid to tell you that you could have paid £400

0:21:360:21:39

for not very much work at all.

0:21:390:21:41

No, I think... Right. Yeah. OK.

0:21:410:21:45

It's hard-earned money at the end of the day.

0:21:450:21:47

But you put your trust, don't you, in people.

0:21:470:21:50

Oh, Adam! It's my husband, actually.

0:21:520:21:55

Adam and best friend Alex can't wait to let Joy off the hook.

0:21:550:21:59

I'm afraid you've been set up.

0:22:020:22:04

You are awful! 'He was convincing'

0:22:040:22:06

when he talked about carbon monoxide.

0:22:060:22:09

I was totally gullible.

0:22:090:22:10

What I'm going to do for you here, look...

0:22:100:22:13

Cos this hurt me more than anything.

0:22:130:22:17

'I didn't see it coming.'

0:22:170:22:19

It was only when I got the bill, that's when I started to think.

0:22:190:22:24

Something just unsettled me there.

0:22:240:22:28

I thought I'd have to question that when my husband got home.

0:22:280:22:31

-Who are these guys?

-BBC 1.

0:22:310:22:33

And I look like this?!

0:22:340:22:37

In future, I'll make sure that I get a proper receipt and their proper details.

0:22:380:22:44

Contact details.

0:22:440:22:46

And just be a bit more aware of the jobs they're doing, really.

0:22:460:22:53

A bit more knowledge myself.

0:22:530:22:55

Joy was such a good sport, there, but she could have done so much more.

0:22:560:23:00

And we could all learn something from that.

0:23:000:23:03

As well as asking for ID, always ask plenty of questions.

0:23:030:23:08

And never let a tradesman tackle any job

0:23:080:23:11

without getting a written quotation.

0:23:110:23:14

If anything does go wrong, don't be afraid to call for help.

0:23:140:23:17

Your local Trading Standards will offer advice.

0:23:170:23:20

Rogue tradesmen often take minor household issues

0:23:240:23:28

and turn them into massive con tricks.

0:23:280:23:30

Just such an issue is mould. The NHS advises that spores from mould

0:23:300:23:34

can cause allergic reactions in some people.

0:23:340:23:37

The best way to stop that is to keep your home dry and well-ventilated to prevent condensation.

0:23:370:23:43

Roger's off to meet a sensible, strong-willed consumer

0:23:430:23:46

to see whether she'll be taken in.

0:23:460:23:48

Social worker Stephanie Gums from Berkshire has three daughters

0:23:500:23:54

and 20-year-old Carly is setting her up today.

0:23:540:23:57

She's a person who believes she knows everything about everything.

0:23:570:24:02

She's never wrong, according to her. She's always right.

0:24:020:24:06

Stephanie sounds like she could be more than a match for Roger.

0:24:060:24:10

There is a mould problem in her bathroom. What tricks does he have up his sleeve?

0:24:100:24:14

I'm going to try and persuade the householder that what she's got is toxic mould.

0:24:140:24:19

And it's a danger to her and her household and needs to be treated immediately.

0:24:190:24:24

I've got my partner in crime, Luke. What's this, Luke?

0:24:240:24:27

This is a theatrical smoke machine, used for TV dramas and film.

0:24:270:24:31

-Like you get in a disco?

-Exactly.

0:24:310:24:33

Actually it'll do nothing at all. We'll fill the place with smoke

0:24:330:24:37

and she'll think it's killing off the fungus

0:24:370:24:40

and then we can charge her as much as possible for as little as possible!

0:24:400:24:45

Cunning. And they put a fake toxic sticker on the side.

0:24:450:24:49

That'll help their trick seem more convincing.

0:24:490:24:52

The first, to carry out some bogus tests

0:24:520:24:55

and use scare tactics to make out that her mould is far worse than it really is.

0:24:550:25:00

A health risk that needs special attention.

0:25:000:25:03

Then Roger will unveil his fumigator and pretend it'll dispose of the mould.

0:25:030:25:08

He'll wear protective clothing, even though the smoke won't actually do anything.

0:25:080:25:13

Stephanie's mouldy ceiling would be reparable

0:25:140:25:17

with a good scrub and a coat of paint. With goods and labour, that's around £80.

0:25:170:25:22

But Roger's hoping to smoke £300 out of her for this utterly pointless job.

0:25:220:25:28

A massive price hike, the rotter!

0:25:280:25:31

When Roger and Luke arrive, just after three o'clock,

0:25:310:25:34

they're shown straight to the fungus-ridden bathroom.

0:25:340:25:37

No-one's asked them for ID yet. They've waltzed right in.

0:25:370:25:40

The last contractor told me it was because I haven't got a window in here.

0:25:400:25:46

-There's loads of bathrooms built without windows now.

-Exactly.

-Very common.

0:25:460:25:51

I think Roger's now ready to play a dirty trick.

0:25:510:25:54

This mould, if we don't get rid of this mould now, it's a real health hazard.

0:25:540:25:58

They talk about a toxic mould everywhere.

0:25:580:26:00

It's in the papers. It's a growing problem.

0:26:000:26:04

Basically, it's bad for your health.

0:26:040:26:07

-I don't know if you suffer from asthma, or the kids do.

-The children do.

0:26:070:26:11

Do they? They get asthma? Well, that's probably... You know.

0:26:110:26:15

I'll carry out a test and see what the toxic levels on it are.

0:26:150:26:19

Roger's using scare tactics about toxic mould.

0:26:230:26:26

He starts his con trick by pretending to test the toxicity

0:26:260:26:29

with one of his many gadgets.

0:26:290:26:31

What's it really need, Rog? How's it looking?

0:26:310:26:35

-What does it need?

-Yeah.

0:26:350:26:38

-For truth?

-Yeah.

0:26:380:26:40

It needs a good scrub with some bleach!

0:26:400:26:42

-Let's go back out to the van.

-OK.

0:26:430:26:46

So what you're saying is that Stephanie could do this herself for nothing?

0:26:460:26:50

It could do with a proper bit of insulation, a proper cleaning off.

0:26:510:26:55

They need to improve the ventilation.

0:26:550:26:57

It's an unhealthy situation to be in.

0:26:570:26:59

Because I'm a cowboy, I'm not going to do any of that.

0:26:590:27:02

I'm just going to puff a bit of smoke in there, tell them that's cured the problem

0:27:020:27:07

and that it will kill the mould

0:27:070:27:09

and then I'll take 300 quid, if I can,

0:27:090:27:11

and we'll get out of there.

0:27:110:27:13

You mean when you run off with her hard-earned cash!

0:27:130:27:16

She won't see you for dust, Roger.

0:27:160:27:18

I just took a little test on that mould. It's pretty horrible stuff.

0:27:180:27:23

-What I'll do is clean it off for you.

-It's been cleaned off before.

0:27:230:27:27

I cleaned it before with a solution.

0:27:270:27:29

I can't remember what it was. An anti-mould solution.

0:27:290:27:33

-You use it with water.

-Yes, just pat it on.

0:27:330:27:36

Nobody's put a smoke thing in there, have they?

0:27:360:27:39

-Like a fumigation thing.

-No.

0:27:390:27:41

Well, if I do that for you,

0:27:410:27:42

it will kill all that mould off completely.

0:27:420:27:45

You little liar, Roger!

0:27:450:27:48

That fumigation machine has as much chance of dissipating the mould

0:27:480:27:53

as Roger would by blowing on it! Even so,

0:27:530:27:55

he wants to walk away with £300 of Stephanie's hard-earned cash.

0:27:550:27:59

Will she be as sharp as daughter Carly thinks?

0:27:590:28:03

I suspect she might. You may have met your match, Roger.

0:28:030:28:06

It's pretty horrible stuff.

0:28:060:28:09

-I'll have to put a mask on to do it.

-What organisation are you from?

0:28:090:28:13

You haven't given me a card or told me where you're from.

0:28:130:28:16

We're just mould... Pest and mould contractors.

0:28:160:28:21

-Do you have a card?

-Yeah. I'll go and get it.

-Please, yeah.

-Sure.

0:28:210:28:25

Good for you, Stephanie. At last a consumer who's demanded to see our tradesman's credentials.

0:28:250:28:30

Which leaves him slightly on the back foot!

0:28:300:28:33

Will he now be rumbled by the "no nonsense" Stephanie?

0:28:330:28:37

I've just found out. I've just had a look in the diary.

0:28:370:28:41

I got it, um...from the electrician.

0:28:410:28:46

-I think it's cos the council...

-An electrician?

-It's a referral.

0:28:460:28:51

My son-in-law has one.

0:28:510:28:52

Um... I think the reason was that the council contractors didn't solve the problem for you.

0:28:520:28:58

Lucky escape, Roger. She's fallen for your fake card and referral patter!

0:28:580:29:02

But I don't think you're in the clear just yet.

0:29:020:29:05

What we'll have to do with this is give it the smoke treatment, fumigation treatment.

0:29:050:29:11

-Yeah.

-But we guarantee that we can get rid of it.

0:29:110:29:15

What's your hourly rate? There must be an hourly rate.

0:29:150:29:18

Well, there's a call-out. Then we've got the cost of the equipment

0:29:180:29:24

which is quite a lot.

0:29:240:29:26

Quite a lot? Look at our scammer squirm!

0:29:260:29:29

Stephanie's asking all the right questions and Roger seems totally unprepared.

0:29:290:29:34

Then our hourly rate. We're £50 an hour each.

0:29:340:29:38

-This young man is your apprentice, so he can't be £50 an hour!

-No.

0:29:390:29:43

I don't think I've ever seen Roger in such a spot!

0:29:430:29:46

I'm loving this!

0:29:460:29:48

Things will get more heated for our con man.

0:29:500:29:52

Haggle time. It's got to be a bit less than that, I'm afraid.

0:29:520:29:56

And how will Stephanie react when we tell her what's really gone on?

0:29:560:30:00

I saw his card, asked for his ID and you say he's not legit?

0:30:000:30:04

I love it when the public fight back!

0:30:080:30:10

Next, we meet a man from Gloucestershire

0:30:100:30:12

who's just as determined as Stephanie

0:30:120:30:15

not to be taken for a ride.

0:30:150:30:16

He came up against a really devious bunch of crooks.

0:30:160:30:19

But fortunately, crime doesn't pay!

0:30:190:30:21

This south Gloucestershire industrial estate

0:30:220:30:26

housed one of the most devious criminal gangs I've heard of.

0:30:260:30:29

The local police have just finished their investigation into three cowboys.

0:30:290:30:34

Mark Dixon, Nicholas Harris and Matthew Higgins.

0:30:340:30:37

They operated here for five years and targeted more than 50 householders

0:30:370:30:43

as Investigating Officer DCI Sellwood explains.

0:30:430:30:47

It wasn't dodgy builders

0:30:470:30:48

or not very good builders,

0:30:480:30:50

who just didn't do what they set out to do.

0:30:500:30:53

They set out to defraud the customers from the very outset.

0:30:530:30:56

Acting under the company name of C.M.D Management,

0:30:560:31:00

Dixon, Harris and Higgins pocketed almost one million pounds

0:31:000:31:05

yes, one million pounds,

0:31:050:31:06

before David Sellwood's team caught up with them.

0:31:060:31:09

They ran a sophisticated business tailor-made to ensnare even the most cautious consumer.

0:31:090:31:14

A couple of the people that they used searched planning applications.

0:31:140:31:18

So when they found that members of the public had secured planning permission

0:31:180:31:23

for an extension or a new-build,

0:31:230:31:25

they would cold call the customer

0:31:250:31:27

and make them an offer to undertake their work for them

0:31:270:31:32

at a very competitive price.

0:31:320:31:34

This is how they were able to start playing dirty tricks on 63-year-old Mike Stanley.

0:31:370:31:42

In 2005, he secured planning permission to create a new bedroom

0:31:420:31:47

by adding a one-storey extension above his kitchen.

0:31:470:31:50

When C.M.D's researchers found out,

0:31:500:31:52

he was targeted by their salesmen.

0:31:520:31:55

They had all the references, the photographs,

0:31:550:31:58

the back-up, telephone numbers, et cetera.

0:31:580:32:00

I did phone the numbers given to me from the office and they did sound like a reputable company.

0:32:000:32:06

People answered with the name of the company.

0:32:060:32:09

Mike was wise to check, but he couldn't have known

0:32:090:32:12

that this was all a front

0:32:120:32:14

and that he was about to sign up to a company which would turn his whole life upside-down.

0:32:140:32:19

The quote I received from them was just under £15,000.

0:32:190:32:22

When I decided to go with them, I paid £2,200 deposit.

0:32:220:32:28

They came in October 2006

0:32:290:32:34

to actually physically do some work to start the building.

0:32:340:32:38

Customers would pay up-front for work that was going to be done.

0:32:380:32:41

They'd phone up on a regular basis and say they had difficulties with cash flow or suppliers.

0:32:410:32:46

Would they pay a bit more, pay a bit more.

0:32:460:32:49

People were persuaded to do so in the hope that they would get their work completed.

0:32:490:32:54

These tried and tested tricks are often used by disreputable builders

0:32:540:32:59

but Mike had no idea he was being strung along.

0:32:590:33:02

The work dragged on for the best part of nine months

0:33:020:33:05

but all they'd built was the facade.

0:33:050:33:07

None of the internal workings had been installed.

0:33:070:33:11

They started demanding more and more money from me

0:33:110:33:14

which I was refusing to pay up.

0:33:140:33:16

By then, they started to threaten me with the contract that I'd signed

0:33:160:33:22

by saying that stage payments were correct and they wanted money up-front

0:33:220:33:26

at any stage they demanded it.

0:33:260:33:29

I said they weren't getting any money out of me till I saw proper progress.

0:33:290:33:33

Good on Mike for standing up for his rights,

0:33:330:33:35

particularly with a bunch of tradesmen trampling around his home.

0:33:350:33:39

A bunch of cowboys who were taking him for a ride.

0:33:390:33:42

There was a supposed carpenter at work on the bed. There were no dust sheets around.

0:33:420:33:47

He was sat on the quilt, he had a cigarette in his mouth.

0:33:470:33:51

He had a piece of wood over his knee and he was sawing into it over the bed cover.

0:33:510:33:57

I looked at him, swore at him and told him to get out of my house.

0:33:570:34:01

At that time I called the building authorities and the police.

0:34:010:34:06

He turfed out the rogue tradesmen but lost £11,000.

0:34:060:34:11

He had to find another £11,000 to put their work right.

0:34:110:34:15

But incredibly the rogues still had an extraordinary and devious trick to play.

0:34:150:34:20

I had letters and leaflets dropped through the letterbox

0:34:200:34:24

saying that these people had heard

0:34:240:34:28

that the builders who were originally here had been arrested

0:34:280:34:32

and work had been stopped.

0:34:320:34:33

And that these people had also been affected by that company

0:34:330:34:36

and were offering their services to me.

0:34:360:34:39

I got on to the police again on this one to back it up

0:34:390:34:42

and it turned out that they were the same group of people

0:34:420:34:46

trying to come in through what you'd call the back door!

0:34:460:34:49

The cheek of it! It took the police investigation into C.M.D Management

0:34:490:34:53

and the court case against Dixon, Harris and Higgins

0:34:530:34:57

to bring some light back into Mike's life.

0:34:570:35:00

The three people who were convicted had got eight, seven and six years individually.

0:35:000:35:05

I was really elated.

0:35:070:35:09

After an investigation lasting three years

0:35:090:35:12

and discovering more than 50 victims,

0:35:120:35:14

it was also a success story for DCI Sellwood and his team.

0:35:140:35:18

The police aren't supposed to say they're happy with what the judge has done,

0:35:180:35:22

but I can say the victims were delighted with the sentences.

0:35:220:35:26

Mike and other victims may receive some of their money back

0:35:260:35:30

in a "proceeds of crime" hearing.

0:35:300:35:32

It's clear that taking care with our private data is paramount.

0:35:320:35:35

Always read the small print.

0:35:350:35:37

I read and read and double read

0:35:380:35:40

because I've been scammed once

0:35:400:35:42

and I've been conned and hurt. It's upset my life

0:35:420:35:46

and I'll do my best not to let it happen again.

0:35:460:35:49

An extraordinary story. As well as triple-checking any leaflets, quotes and paperwork

0:35:500:35:55

given to you by tradesmen,

0:35:550:35:57

don't forget you will be able to check with your local Trading Standards for advice.

0:35:570:36:02

Now, what about Stephanie in Berkshire? Will she fall for our tradesman's dirty tricks?

0:36:020:36:07

Her bathroom ceiling was mouldy, but not dangerous.

0:36:080:36:11

After a bogus test, Roger's now stringing her along

0:36:110:36:14

that he can dispose of her mould with a special fumigator.

0:36:140:36:17

But Stephanie's no push-over. She's demanded to know who he is.

0:36:170:36:22

What organisation are you from? You haven't given me a card or told me where you're from.

0:36:220:36:28

She's rubbished the fee he wants to charge for Luke's time.

0:36:280:36:31

-This young man is your apprentice, so he can't be £50 an hour!

-No.

0:36:310:36:35

And she's not happy about the full price he wants to charge.

0:36:350:36:39

£300.

0:36:390:36:40

-Haggle time. It's got to be less than that, I'm afraid.

-OK.

0:36:400:36:44

Supposing I knock 50 off? 250.

0:36:440:36:48

How about two?

0:36:480:36:49

How about two and I'll say go upstairs now.

0:36:490:36:52

-I'll give you a biscuit.

-225? Want to go for 225?

0:36:520:36:56

-225.

-225. You're a very good businesswoman.

0:36:560:37:00

At last, Roger has a bogus job, even if it is for £75 less than he wanted.

0:37:000:37:06

She's gone for it. She's beat me down a bit.

0:37:070:37:10

So she thinks she's getting a bargain, which is a good thing.

0:37:100:37:13

But still far too much money for a job which is totally useless.

0:37:130:37:18

But we'll go and have a go now and we want to be in and out.

0:37:180:37:23

This ghostbuster-like outfit is certainly impressive

0:37:230:37:27

but completely unnecessary. The smoke wouldn't hurt a fly, never mind a robust chap like Roger.

0:37:270:37:33

But it's all part of his dirty trick.

0:37:330:37:35

Before turning on the smoke, Roger wiped the ceiling with bleach.

0:37:370:37:41

If Stephanie wants to inspect his work later,

0:37:410:37:43

and something tells me she might,

0:37:430:37:46

then this deception will help.

0:37:460:37:48

But she could have done this and saved herself a lot of hassle!

0:37:480:37:52

Let's get on that smoke machine, mate.

0:37:520:37:54

Finally time for the smoke machine to puff into action.

0:37:540:37:58

Wa-hey! Now it's away!

0:37:580:38:01

And time for Roger to take a well-earned rest!

0:38:080:38:11

Brought a book, Rog?

0:38:110:38:13

If there's anything left over, it's dead.

0:38:150:38:19

That's hot work! That's worth 225 quid of anybody's money!

0:38:240:38:30

I've put a load of theatrical smoke around the bathroom and it looks pretty dramatic.

0:38:300:38:34

I told her not to go in the room, which is great. She has to leave it at least two hours

0:38:340:38:39

and then put the extractor fan on for an hour, then she can go in.

0:38:390:38:43

That way, we'll be over the hill and far away by the time she starts to smell a rat!

0:38:430:38:48

OK.

0:38:480:38:50

Mould fumigation.

0:38:500:38:52

Rog sets about writing an invoice

0:38:520:38:55

but Stephanie clearly does smell a rat!

0:38:550:38:57

She wants to check she's not being taken for a ride.

0:38:570:39:00

She even calls her daughter to reassure herself that Roger is bona fide.

0:39:000:39:05

-How's the work going?

-I haven't seen it. They're doing the invoice.

0:39:050:39:09

Go and have a look if you want to.

0:39:090:39:12

-I will have a look.

-Have a quick look but don't stay in there too long.

0:39:120:39:16

Cos if you die, I don't want to...

0:39:160:39:18

I'm going to have a quick look.

0:39:180:39:20

Uh-oh, Roger. Could this be the end of the line for your smoking tricks?

0:39:200:39:25

Go with her, Luke.

0:39:250:39:27

Today Stephanie Gumms waited in for a tradesman to look at her mouldy ceiling.

0:39:280:39:33

The slippery scammer misled her about the toxic quality of the mould

0:39:330:39:37

and advised her to fumigate it.

0:39:370:39:39

She wisely asked for ID and haggled over the price

0:39:390:39:43

but finally consented to the work.

0:39:430:39:45

So, will the hard-to-please Stephanie be impressed enough

0:39:450:39:48

to return with the money?

0:39:480:39:50

I'll put the total in, 225, all right?

0:39:500:39:55

And then I'll recommend the insulation, all right?

0:39:550:39:59

I'll photocopy it.

0:39:590:40:00

Astounding! £225 for wiping the ceiling,

0:40:000:40:05

a job Stephanie could have done for less than a fiver!

0:40:050:40:08

Not bad for an hour's work!

0:40:080:40:10

-Cheers.

-See you.

-Bye.

-Bye.

0:40:100:40:12

Take care.

0:40:140:40:15

Better hurry, Rog. I think Stephanie might smell a rat!

0:40:150:40:19

With Roger out of sight, our producer must let Stephanie know

0:40:220:40:26

the true story of his work on her bathroom.

0:40:260:40:29

Hello. We're from the BBC. I've got a few questions.

0:40:290:40:32

-Have you had any work done lately?

-This morning, in fact.

0:40:320:40:36

-Did you?

-Yeah.

-What stuff did you have done?

0:40:360:40:38

The bathroom walls. Clearing mould from the bathroom ceilings.

0:40:380:40:43

-Do you know something that I don't know?

-Did you pay in cash?

-Yes, I did.

0:40:430:40:48

-And it was over 200?

-225 I paid.

0:40:480:40:51

I have to tell you we're following a gentleman who's not a bona fide tradesman.

0:40:510:40:57

-Was his name Roger?

-Yes, that's right.

0:40:570:41:00

I saw his card and asked for his ID. So you say he's not legit?

0:41:000:41:05

I'm afraid to tell you you could have paid over £200 for absolutely no work whatsoever.

0:41:050:41:10

What's the point in you following him if you spot him go to people's houses,

0:41:110:41:16

defraud people and you come round after to film?

0:41:160:41:19

-We'll try to help you get your money back.

-That sounds better.

0:41:190:41:22

-How do you feel?

-I feel quite gutted.

0:41:220:41:25

I went to the bathroom when they were still here

0:41:250:41:27

and his apprentice followed me...

0:41:270:41:30

This is the man here!

0:41:300:41:32

Don't worry, Stephanie. Roger and your daughter Carly

0:41:320:41:35

are heading back with your cash!

0:41:350:41:37

You've been the victim of a set-up.

0:41:370:41:40

Oh, my God!

0:41:400:41:41

I feel quite a fool, really, because I'm very vigilant.

0:41:410:41:45

He was convincing, but I was a bit cautious, a bit dubious,

0:41:450:41:48

and that's why I asked for his credentials.

0:41:480:41:51

Because he produced them... If he hadn't, I wouldn't have gone for this.

0:41:510:41:56

-She's still embarrassed.

-You shouldn't be. You did very well.

0:41:560:41:59

-You checked my ID.

-It's not worth what it's written on!

-I know. It's rubbish!

0:41:590:42:04

Even though I thought it wasn't a good idea, I still fell for it.

0:42:040:42:08

You were good to check it and you did get a bit of discount!

0:42:080:42:11

£75 discount.

0:42:110:42:12

That is your money back, plus the tenner you gave me!

0:42:120:42:15

For a drink, I said!

0:42:150:42:17

There you go.

0:42:180:42:20

In future, that wouldn't happen to me in future.

0:42:200:42:22

They won't be getting past my door.

0:42:220:42:25

But he was very friendly. I probably fell for that, too.

0:42:250:42:29

He was very friendly and he sold himself, really.

0:42:290:42:32

He knew all the facts of what he was talking about.

0:42:320:42:36

Thanks for taking it so well, Stephanie.

0:42:400:42:42

Roger's played the rogue for us today. He's normally honest and hard-working

0:42:420:42:46

like the vast majority of tradesmen who you can rely on.

0:42:460:42:49

It's only a small minority who let the side down.

0:42:490:42:52

Just remember, if in doubt, keep them out!

0:42:520:42:56

Thanks for watching. See you next time.

0:42:560:42:58

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:43:180:43:20

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.