Episode 5 Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen


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Episode 5

Hidden camera series where 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 must work even harder for us 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, 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 something was suspicious.

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BLEEP-BLEEP

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

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An awful leak came right through the bedroom. I was absolutely livid.

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-The house was a death trap.

-We didn't know if he would get violent.

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On today's show, our very own rogue Roger fools a Cheshire mum into thinking

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her electricity supply is draining into the ground.

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It's losing a bit of electricity. You can hear that fizzing as it's just losing a bit of power.

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The 33-grand rip-off by a ruthless con man who hit a Lancashire couple not once, not twice,

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but four times.

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I cannot believe that anybody would treat a fellow human being in such a despicable manner.

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Plus, Roger's devious con with a woman in Hampshire, tricked into paying hundreds of pounds

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for central heating repairs she doesn't need. Will he get away with it?

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-What are we saying?

-It'll cost 650 quid to do it.

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Stand by for Dirty Tricks Of The Tradesmen.

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Hello. Now, I'm not a tradesman.

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I couldn't rewire a house, fit new tiles on a roof or service a boiler.

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These are specialist jobs which is why we put our trust in electricians, plumbers and roofers.

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The vast majority of them do a terrific job, but there is a minority who turn rogue

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and they can make lives for people a misery.

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

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

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

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

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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 out there to make a fast buck.

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But we're asking Roger to become a rogue just for today. Why?

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Well, because if he shows us what the tricky tradesmen do,

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he can show us how not to get conned.

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We'll create household problems and send in Roger to show us all how easy it is to be ripped off.

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It's all being filmed in secret and Roger will work with our cameraman Luke, posing as his apprentice.

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

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Recent figures show that 21 million households in the UK use gas

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for heating, hot water and cooking each year.

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It's essential then that all gas appliances need a regular service

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which means we depend on Gas Safe engineers to take good care of us,

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but a minority of rogues will always find ways of tricking the unwary.

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Roger is about to demonstrate some of their methods on a very smart lady to see if she'll be taken in.

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This is Hampshire businessman Dave Harris and he's been married to Tina for 23 years.

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She's a health worker and it's her 50th birthday soon.

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Dave wants to set her up as a birthday present.

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My wife is a very gregarious person.

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She's quite outgoing, fun, she likes a bit of a wind-up herself,

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so it would be nice to turn the tables for once.

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Hmm. They have a history of issues with their fireplace,

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so Dave is arranging for a routine service check.

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Tina wouldn't really understand too much in depth about tradespeople

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and electrics and plumbing and gas,

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so I think she'll probably fall for the line that Roger will spin her.

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Here's hoping, Dave, because Roger has some devious money-making tricks to play using that fireplace.

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Really what I want to do is tell them that they're losing pressure in their central heating system.

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This would indicate a hidden leak, so to help me with this I've got my assistant Luke.

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-You've been shopping.

-Yeah, we've got some props.

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I've got smoke pellets, I've got a carbon monoxide detector

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and in my back pocket here I have got leak sealer.

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So I don't waste real leak sealer, I've put in a bit of milk which is roughly the same colour.

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To make that internal leak, I've got to slip into the loo and bleed one of her radiators.

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The pressure will drop on the boiler, I can show her that and tell her it's a leak.

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So after his routine gas fire service, Roger will make Tina think

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that the central heating system has a leak which he'll fake by lowering the pressure.

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His second trick will be to charge a fortune to fix the leak by pumping in a sealant.

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He's calling it his "under pressure" scam.

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A call-out charge for a routine gas fire service costs around £100,

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so if he can make a few hundred pounds on top, he'll be laughing.

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Tina thinks she's going out with a friend and expects an engineer to do a quick service of their gas fire.

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She's waiting for Roger and Luke at half past nine.

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I just suddenly saw that house round the corner

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-and I didn't want to cause a ruck with...

-Keep your shoes on.

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-It's just a wood floor.

-You'll need those to walk all over poor old Tina.

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-OK, right, so we'll get cracking. That's lovely.

-Is there anything else you need?

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The gas fire check comes first. That'll gain Tina's trust, which is crucial.

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Now, I'm going to run this smoke test, OK?

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-Go out in the garden.

-I'm going out there?

-Yeah.

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When I set this going, you should see smoke coming out your chimney.

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Roger is being thorough here.

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He's checking that the chimney isn't blocked and there's enough draught to draw any fumes out.

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It will all help to convince Tina that he's genuine and trustworthy.

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It looks like a good draw to me.

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Yes, we have lift-off.

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Job done, and with Tina thinking he's bona fide,

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Roger can now lay the groundwork for his first dirty trick.

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WC...

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While he's in the bathroom, he bleeds the radiator.

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This will show up on the boiler gauge as low pressure.

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If he tells Tina he needs to do a routine check of the boiler, he can then discover the problem.

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So what I've just done is I've bled a radiator in the bathroom, the towel rail,

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just to ease a bit of water out of the system, so there's a drop in pressure,

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then I can point to that pressure gauge and say, "Your boiler's a bit low,"

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and start talking about the leak.

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And here goes.

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Does this... Does it lose a bit of pressure, this thing, or not?

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-I don't know.

-You never worry about the pressure? We look at the boiler as part of the gas check.

-Sure.

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I'm just concerned that this is losing a bit of pressure.

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Yeah.

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Tina is trying hard to understand this problem.

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The trouble is, she seems to be falling into his trap because, remember, there is no leak.

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-What are you thinking, Roge?

-There might be a little bit of a leak on the system.

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If you get a leak on the system and it's what they call a micro-leak,

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what that's doing is rusting the radiators.

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-Where's the leak?

-I don't know. That's the point.

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If you leave it, it means that your radiators, your boiler in the end you have to replace.

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The worst is that the pipes under the floor get filled up with the rust and all the old crud,

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then they don't work properly and you get cold radiators in the room.

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So if we can get rid of it now...

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He's going for it. I sense a dirty trick coming on.

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What I can do for you is dig up the floor and replace the pipes

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in the lounge.

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Cunning plan, Roger. Make Tina think the solution will cost big money and cause lots of disruption,

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then she'll accept your cheaper, hassle-free alternative. Am I right?

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I can put some internal leak sealant into the system.

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We've got a pump and we just pressure it in there.

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It finds the leak. It's the sort of stuff they used to put in car radiators years ago.

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If we put that in there, that'll seal the leak off and you won't have any more problems.

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-So what are we saying?

-It's going to cost 650 quid to do it, all right?

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650 quid?!

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You little liar!

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So will Tina agree to Roger starting his dirty work?

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We don't have to do it now, but we could do it while we're here.

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Or will she call in reinforcements?

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-I'll just give you my husband's number.

-Is he fierce?

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Fierce? Dave? We'll find out in just a moment.

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But first, an extraordinary story of rogue tradesmen at work.

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Fortunately, the police caught them bang to rights.

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Who would have thought beautiful scenery like this would play host to a heartless repeat fraud?

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But Whalley in Lancashire is exactly where Sean Boswell committed just such a crime.

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He hit the same vulnerable couple not once, not twice, but four times.

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This is a situation where a strong, intelligent woman was exploited

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when she was in a vulnerable position

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by an unscrupulous and uncaring trader.

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The heartless Boswell took thousands of pounds each time he scammed the couple.

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It all started back in January 2008.

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He was working across the road and I needed a little work done,

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so I asked him to come over.

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He said all the right things.

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He talked as though he was a competent builder.

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Boswell agreed to replace the rotten cedar board cladding with plastic cladding and do some other jobs.

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He didn't provide any ID, but he did talk the talk and was about to overcharge Diane.

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He did some cladding at the front and he did a small amount of work on the roof.

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He also did all of the dry verges all round because we'd established they were no good.

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For all that, he charged 7,300.

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I just thought that this is what roofing work cost. I had no experience.

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If only Diane had asked for quotes from different tradesmen,

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she would have found out that £7,300 was way over the mark.

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I was really struck by how bad it was, particularly the cladding to the front of the house.

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It was all wavy and really a very poor example of work.

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And in addition, the work to the roof was pretty bad too.

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All in all, I was quite scandalised by how much she'd been charged for it. It was really, really overpriced.

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It is all the more stomach-churning when you learn Diane has multiple sclerosis

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while husband John was in the early stages of Alzheimer's.

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Unfortunately, they would see more of Boswell. Much more.

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They realise that you might have some money

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and you might be vulnerable, so they exploit that and they'll be back.

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That's what happened in this case

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when Boswell appeared six months later uninvited and smiling at her door in May 2008.

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He said that I would need a complete re-roof and it would cost 23,000,

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which frightened me, it's an enormous sum.

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But Boswell was back to his dirty tricks.

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He said rather than replace the roof for £23,000, he could re-seal it for around £9,000.

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This second piece of work was vastly overpriced

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and it's questionable whether she actually needed it done and how effective it was.

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A simple waterproof sealant for a roof like this should cost £1,200.

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Diane was charged a whopping £9,800.

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As if all this wasn't bad enough, in 2008,

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John was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but Sean Boswell didn't care.

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In January 2009, he called for a third time

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and offered to knock down Diane's chimney and re-roof her garage.

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John was very poorly

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and I just could not think of anything else.

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I just let things carry on as they'd started.

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When I saw the quality of the work, I was shocked

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because he hadn't taken the chimney down properly

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and it actually led to a leak into the shower room.

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For this wretched work, Diane was charged £8,750.

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Unbelievably, Boswell still wasn't finished with the poor Boothmans.

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He came back in July 2009

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and produced a rotten piece of wood which he said had come off my roof.

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Of course, it hadn't come off the roof. Boswell was back to his dirty tricks.

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The wood was just a prop to help him persuade Diane her roof needed new tiles and wooden battens.

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He said all the battens would need to be replaced. I was so anxious that nothing should transpire

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to interfere with John's comfort that I felt I had no choice.

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At first, he asked me for £9,000. I was horrified.

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And I said, "Not another 9,000!"

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So he reduced it to 6,850.

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I didn't want to pay,

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but I was scared there would be nastiness and John couldn't have coped with that.

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So after four visits and a catalogue of shoddy work,

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Boswell had scammed Diane out of £32,700.

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Sadly, in September 2009, John died.

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When Diane gathered her thoughts about all that had happened, she contacted Boswell.

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I was beginning to realise that this was a con man I was dealing with.

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When the address Boswell had given turned out to be bogus, Diane called Lancashire Trading Standards.

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Good old Diane. She may have been down, but she certainly wasn't out.

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If he was willing to rip off a disabled woman with a dying husband,

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he would con anybody.

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We called in a surveyor to have a look at this work.

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He said that when the trader had said he'd replaced 150 tiles,

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at maximum, about 24 had been replaced.

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The trader also said that he had replaced a whole load of battens on the roof.

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None of these had been replaced.

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In addition to that, Diane had to pay a further £16,000 to have this work put right.

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The evidence the surveyor collected and Diane's testimony was enough to bring charges against Sean Boswell.

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He pleaded guilty to four counts of fraud and in March 2011, he was sentenced to eight months in prison.

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The main message to remember is don't do business on the doorstep.

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Take your time.

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Get some quotes.

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Deal with a trader who has an actual, proper address and contact details.

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For Diane, the whole experience is one she'd like to put behind her.

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I feel like I was a bit stupid.

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But in reality, I was in a bad situation.

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My husband was dying and I'm not well myself.

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Looking back,

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I cannot believe that anybody would treat a fellow human being in such a despicable manner.

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Staggering. And later, we have another extraordinary case study

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as this woman's mother is fleeced of her life savings.

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Two rogues hit her with the same repair bill over and over again.

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-I can't believe anybody would target such a vulnerable person.

-Her bank accounts had been emptied.

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Plus, to show you how not to be ripped off,

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Roger plays more devious tricks on a consumer in Cheshire.

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-It does what a new fuse box would do without rewiring it.

-If it needs done, that's what we'll do.

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But first, time to find out what Tina Harris from Hampshire makes of our cowboy.

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Roger checked her gas fire, a proper job, to gain her confidence. Now he's playing tricks.

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He's faked a drop in water pressure and tries to persuade her she has a leak in her central heating system.

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I'm concerned that this is losing a bit of pressure.

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-What would that mean? A leak?

-Yeah.

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Now Roger is pressuring Tina to let him fix it today by pumping some of this special fluid into her pipes.

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In fact, it's just milk. All for a hefty fee, of course.

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-So what are we saying?

-It's going to cost 650 quid to do it, all right?

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-Will Tina fall for this huge quote?

-I'll give you my husband's number.

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Good for you, Tina. Such a big outlay of cash needs to be checked.

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Of course, it was husband Dave who set Tina up in the first place.

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He does all he can to persuade her that Roger is bona fide.

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What do you want to do? Just say, "Yeah, when can we fit it in"?

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-Yeah, we'll just have to get it done.

-Yeah, OK. I'll speak to you later.

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-Bye.

-Bye.

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Right, yeah, do it. If it's got to be done, it's got to be done.

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-All right, OK. Are you going out?

-Yeah, but I'm prepared for you to...

-Get on with it.

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-He'll have to sort out the money with you.

-He's the money man, is he?

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Tina is determined to go out and leave Roger to it. This is not advisable with unknown tradesmen.

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It looks like he's got the promise of £650, but he still needs the cash in hand.

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Could things be getting tricky for our trickster?

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-We were going to do it for cash, weren't we?

-Yeah.

-Because you don't want to pay the 20% VAT, do you?

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Roger tries pressuring her into getting him the money now.

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I'll have to phone up and postpone the other job we've got, just tell them we're going to be late on that.

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Do you want to sort the money out or not? Can I leave that to you?

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-I won't tell your husband.

-Hold on just for a minute. Let me ring him and see.

-OK.

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-I'll just go and find my fella, all right?

-Yeah.

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Tina doesn't keep that cash in the house. Roger must think fast before this job slips through his fingers.

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It's not going as well as I thought it would.

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She's a bit suspicious, she's calling her husband and I don't know where I stand now.

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I'll go back in there, put a bit of milk in the system,

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tell her that's her leak sealant and then if I just pump that in, I can tell her we'll come back.

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But if I can get another 100 quid out of her for doing that, I think I'll be satisfied with that.

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Roger will pretend they're pushed for time and in a hurry to leave.

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First things first. We're in a bit of a rush now cos we've got to go to that other job.

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I'll put this leak sealer in there now, so it'll run round the system.

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There goes Roger's milk. Using milk is one of the oldest tricks in the book and not just in builders' tea!

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As a cheap substitute for potions and treatments, cowboys still charge big bucks for it.

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That's in the pressure vessel. I'll come back to run the big pump on it.

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So he'll come back to finish it later, which means Tina can go out.

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She pays him the money she owes for the gas fire service - £125.

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20, 40, 60, 80, 100...

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-20, 25.

-Lovely. Thank you very much indeed.

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But that's not the end of it as far as Roger is concerned.

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He wants some money for the repair he supposedly started.

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If you just give us a oner for that, another 100 for that, yeah?

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Then we'll re-book it, all right?

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Mm-hm, Roger's really turning the heat up.

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Today, Tina Harris let a tricky tradesman into her house.

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Roger bled a radiator to fake a drop in boiler pressure and he pushed her into getting it fixed today.

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With the job started, he's demanding a £100 deposit.

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Tina's proved to be a strong customer and Roger hasn't found her an easy target.

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But will she pay up?

0:21:410:21:43

Can you give me a deposit for that and another 100 for that, yeah?

0:21:430:21:48

-I'd be delighted...

-Check I've done it right.

0:21:480:21:51

And there it goes.

0:21:510:21:53

-MOBILE PHONE RINGS

-Sorry about that. I must go.

-Don't worry.

-Thanks for that.

0:21:530:21:58

We'll see you again.

0:21:580:22:01

That last-minute extra oner brings his total to £225. Incredible!

0:22:010:22:06

He's picked up a 60% increase on his takings and all for a few drops of milk.

0:22:060:22:12

Come on, Lukey. Let's go, baby.

0:22:120:22:15

Once Roger has cleared the scene, our producer calls on Tina and reveals the truth of today's con.

0:22:180:22:25

Hello there. We're looking into things like dodgy tradesmen, dodgy engineers.

0:22:260:22:33

-That's funny cos a gas man's just left.

-A gas man?

0:22:330:22:36

A gas man's been to do the fire this morning and he's just left, then he wanted to do something else.

0:22:360:22:42

I was a bit iffy about it. They're doing one job, then all of a sudden, they're doing another.

0:22:420:22:48

Then he said, "I need £100." That made me suspicious that he wanted the money quick.

0:22:480:22:53

So yeah, I've been done maybe.

0:22:530:22:56

She doesn't seem too upset about it. Time for husband Dave to reveal his part in the con.

0:22:560:23:01

I'm going to kill you!

0:23:010:23:03

Before I do anything, give me my £225 back! I'm going shopping.

0:23:030:23:08

He was very convincing and the only time I got a bit suspicious

0:23:080:23:12

was when something else needed doing and I started to think, "Hmm..."

0:23:120:23:17

Then he said it would be £650 and I thought, "Yeah, right(!)"

0:23:170:23:21

One, two, three, four, five... It's all there.

0:23:210:23:25

'I gave Roger £225.'

0:23:260:23:30

£225 for blowing some smoke up a chimney and two cups of tea.

0:23:300:23:35

Yeah, a good day's work.

0:23:370:23:39

-Happy birthday.

-BLEEP

0:23:390:23:41

-You absolute...

-BLEEP

0:23:410:23:44

Next time, ask a lot of questions.

0:23:440:23:46

If you've got any doubt whatsoever and you're suspicious about it,

0:23:460:23:52

don't hand over a penny.

0:23:520:23:54

If they're that genuine and they want the business, they'll come back.

0:23:540:23:59

Tina was such a good sport there,

0:24:000:24:02

but what should you do in that situation to avoid being the victim of a con?

0:24:020:24:08

First, always get at least three written quotes.

0:24:090:24:13

Second, do your best to check tradesmen's credentials.

0:24:130:24:17

Finally, never leave them alone.

0:24:170:24:19

If Tina had stuck at Roger's side, he wouldn't have got away with so much.

0:24:190:24:24

Did you know that in the home each year,

0:24:270:24:30

there are around 330 accidents with electricity meters and fuse boxes?

0:24:300:24:35

Quite a few of them can be the result of out-of-date equipment.

0:24:350:24:40

The couple in our next story live in a lovely house, only around 40 years old.

0:24:400:24:45

But it still has the original fuse box. It's working fine.

0:24:450:24:49

But Roger's going to see if he can trick them into thinking that they need a brand-new one.

0:24:490:24:54

Let's meet the family.

0:24:540:24:56

Taxi driver Alan Dunkley lives in Stockport with his girlfriend Tamsin Hill.

0:24:590:25:04

She's very trusting when it comes to tradesmen

0:25:040:25:08

and I think it will be beneficial for her to find out what some tradesmen can be like.

0:25:080:25:14

She's more interested in making the tradesmen brews than actually watching what it is they're doing.

0:25:140:25:20

Thinking his beloved is a little too trusting, Alan told her the fuse box is making a strange fizzing sound.

0:25:200:25:27

He's arranged an electrician to pay her a call, but it's Roger and his apprentice Luke.

0:25:270:25:33

I'll tell them their electricity is leaking away into the ground and that's costing them a fortune.

0:25:330:25:40

It's making their bills go sky-high, so then we've got a little device that will put that right.

0:25:400:25:46

I've got a plastic box for you today, literally completely empty with a dodgy end there.

0:25:460:25:52

-I'll not wire it up, but I'll try and charge 250 quid for that.

-250?

0:25:520:25:57

-Yeah.

-And I've got this device here. It reads how much electricity every appliance in your house consumes.

0:25:570:26:03

These are smart meters. You can pick them up for about £35, but we'll try and get a bit more money for that.

0:26:030:26:09

So Roger's first trick will be to blind Tamsin with science

0:26:090:26:13

about why her fuse box is fizzing, the power is leaking away.

0:26:130:26:18

So she needs to conserve it using a special gadget, in truth, an empty box.

0:26:180:26:23

His third trick will be to sell her a massively overpriced smart meter.

0:26:230:26:28

He's about to have a fuse box frenzy.

0:26:280:26:32

Tamsin may find the smart meter useful in reducing her energy bills.

0:26:340:26:38

As for Roger, he's going to make 325 quid.

0:26:380:26:42

A big profit. The rotter!

0:26:420:26:45

-Wish us luck.

-Tamsin is waiting in for the tricky twosome

0:26:450:26:49

when they turn up at lunchtime.

0:26:490:26:51

-Good morning.

-Morning.

-I've pulled off your drive

0:26:510:26:55

cos I've got a slight oil leak in my van. You could blame me and get a new drive out of it!

0:26:550:27:00

-I'd never have thought of that.

-You've got to be tricky these days.

0:27:000:27:04

We're not all like you, Roger.

0:27:040:27:06

You should be trying to win Tamsin's trust, not to give her reasons to be wary of you from the start.

0:27:060:27:12

Alan said there's a fizzing sound from the fuse box or something.

0:27:120:27:16

Bit of Alka-Seltzer in it probably!

0:27:160:27:19

-All right, lovely.

-Would you like a drink?

-Oh, yeah.

0:27:190:27:22

Tamsin's not asked the guys for any ID.

0:27:220:27:25

In fact, as Alan predicted, she seems more concerned

0:27:250:27:29

with her hospitality skills than checking credentials.

0:27:290:27:34

The fuse box is a bit old, so I think I might have to tell her that it needs renewing.

0:27:360:27:42

That's one thing I can do. The other thing I'm going to do is to investigate this fizzing sound,

0:27:420:27:48

put a few meters in and tell her there's electricity leaking away, costing her money on the bills.

0:27:480:27:54

-OK, mate, you know what to do here, don't you?

-Yeah.

0:27:560:28:00

Have you got a socket in here that I can plug this into?

0:28:000:28:03

First up, Roger and Luke pretend to test the electricity in the house.

0:28:030:28:07

Right, I'm just going to kill your power.

0:28:070:28:11

All it takes is a couple of machines that make bleeping sounds and poor Tamsin is none the wiser.

0:28:130:28:19

BEEPING

0:28:190:28:21

Yeah, I reckon we're losing a little bit here.

0:28:210:28:25

Just draining away somewhere.

0:28:250:28:28

Here comes a waffly mixture of science and deceit.

0:28:280:28:31

It can only mean one thing - a dirty trick approaches.

0:28:310:28:36

Right, what's happening here, it's just losing a bit of electricity.

0:28:370:28:42

You can probably hear that fizzing as it's losing a bit of power.

0:28:420:28:46

It's just a constant, slow trickle of electricity that's coming out of there,

0:28:460:28:51

so I would like to just replace that fuse box with another one.

0:28:510:28:55

Blimey, Roger! Even Tamsin's toddler is stunned by your latest trick.

0:28:550:29:00

But will they go for a costly new fuse box?

0:29:000:29:04

There's an awful lot of flannel coming her way.

0:29:050:29:08

It will save you money because all your electricity is going nowhere.

0:29:080:29:12

Will Roger's non-stop patter persuade Tamsin in the end?

0:29:120:29:16

-Just do the...

-The bit that needs to be done, OK.

0:29:160:29:19

You don't meet rogues often, thankfully, but if they do show up on your doorstep,

0:29:220:29:27

it usually leads to mess and mayhem and the emotional consequences can be shocking for the families

0:29:270:29:33

who are left to pick up the pieces, and that's certainly true of our next story.

0:29:330:29:38

In 2008, two callous con men, Neil Butler and Gary Lancaster,

0:29:380:29:43

targeted a vulnerable 80-year-old in order to rob her of her life savings,

0:29:430:29:49

as her daughter Heather explains.

0:29:490:29:51

We looked at my mum's bank account

0:29:510:29:53

and we just couldn't believe that all this money was going out within a matter of days.

0:29:530:29:59

Her bank accounts were systematically emptied.

0:29:590:30:02

The family have asked us to keep their mum's identity hidden which is why we're calling her Grace.

0:30:020:30:08

Heather wants to share their story to save others from a similar fate.

0:30:080:30:13

Grace lives alone and was targeted by the con men in October 2008.

0:30:130:30:17

Heather only discovered the dirty tricks they played on her when she paid one of her regular visits.

0:30:170:30:23

My mum let me know she was having some work done on the exterior

0:30:230:30:27

and two men had come round to the house

0:30:270:30:30

and they'd told her that they'd been doing work locally, in fact, just down the road.

0:30:300:30:36

She seemed quite competent and happy with the situation, so I let her get on with it.

0:30:360:30:41

At the time, Heather had no reason to suspect there was anything wrong,

0:30:410:30:46

as Grace had handled her own affairs for years.

0:30:460:30:49

But little did she know her mum was about to fall for some of the oldest tricks in the book.

0:30:490:30:55

First, to quote for work on the fascias and not allow Grace any cooling-off time.

0:30:550:31:00

When I went round to investigate, the work wasn't completed.

0:31:010:31:05

I didn't think it was to a very good standard, but when I mentioned this to my mum, she seemed happy with it.

0:31:050:31:11

Over the next few weeks, the men replaced the fascias and soffits and jet-washed the drive,

0:31:110:31:17

but Heather was about to find out the shocking truth of their activities.

0:31:170:31:22

I had a phone call from my brother, telling me to come round to his house. My mum was there.

0:31:220:31:28

She told him that she had no money left in her bank account.

0:31:280:31:33

When I got there, she was sitting very quietly.

0:31:330:31:37

When we enquired what was going on,

0:31:370:31:39

she informed us that she'd been paying the builders.

0:31:390:31:43

They'd been asking for money

0:31:440:31:46

till the point where she had no money left in her account.

0:31:460:31:50

Mindful of the fact that their mother had always been fiercely independent, they felt

0:31:500:31:56

that they had to step in and were staggered by what they discovered.

0:31:560:32:00

When we looked over the accounts, we were shocked at the amount of money that had been withdrawn in cash

0:32:000:32:07

in such a short period, just under two months.

0:32:070:32:12

All her life savings had gone.

0:32:120:32:15

She was very upset that they put her in their car and frog-marched her off to the cash points.

0:32:150:32:21

They'd park round the corner and make my mum go and get money.

0:32:230:32:28

We were just so angry.

0:32:280:32:30

We realised that there was something very wrong with my mum's memory.

0:32:300:32:35

It just wasn't like her.

0:32:350:32:38

Heather and her brother decided to call Trading Standards to see if anything could be done

0:32:380:32:44

to track down these rogues who had ridden roughshod

0:32:440:32:47

over their mum's good nature. Andrew Rees took the case on.

0:32:470:32:51

The quality of work was appalling.

0:32:510:32:53

We had an expert surveyor look at the work that had been done

0:32:530:32:57

and he put a value of approximately £1,000, if the work had been done properly,

0:32:570:33:03

but went on to comment that it was worth about half of this because the standard was so poor.

0:33:030:33:08

£500-worth of work, but they walked away with £6,300.

0:33:090:33:15

That's a 1,200% rip-off!

0:33:150:33:18

It became apparent during the course of the investigation and when the offenders were interviewed

0:33:200:33:25

that they realised the victim had memory problems, so almost to them there was an open chequebook.

0:33:250:33:32

Grace was presented with ten invoices in total, four so-called final bills.

0:33:320:33:37

It's unbelievable that anyone could be so heartless.

0:33:370:33:40

We have a number for £800, £700, another for £800.

0:33:400:33:45

These were all presented in a very short period of time.

0:33:450:33:49

It's clear that the defendants were taking advantage of the victim's memory loss.

0:33:490:33:54

Rogue traders are notoriously difficult to trace.

0:33:540:33:57

We usually get to hear about the case after the traders have done the work, had their money and are long gone,

0:33:570:34:03

so the most difficult part of any investigation is trying to identify who those offenders are.

0:34:030:34:09

But the crucial moment in this case was when a kind-hearted neighbour came to Grace's rescue

0:34:090:34:15

when the men returned to collect some tools they'd left.

0:34:150:34:18

He confronted them, asking them what they were doing,

0:34:180:34:23

and also that he didn't think that they were a proper trading company.

0:34:230:34:28

When they said they were, he said, "You wouldn't mind me taking your photograph then?"

0:34:280:34:33

And that's when they got in the car and reversed off.

0:34:350:34:38

He took the details of it, including its registration mark,

0:34:390:34:43

and that enabled us to progress the investigation rapidly.

0:34:430:34:47

We identified an offender as a result of his actions.

0:34:470:34:51

It's entirely thanks to the quick thinking of this neighbour, who wishes to remain anonymous,

0:34:510:34:56

that they finally managed to catch these crooks.

0:34:560:35:00

In August 2009, Neil Butler and Gary Lancaster were sentenced to a total of 16 months for fraud.

0:35:000:35:06

Never enter into business with somebody who knocks on your door requesting that they carry out work.

0:35:060:35:11

They'll sometimes say it'll cost more if you don't have it done right away. Always say "no" in that situation.

0:35:110:35:18

And use local businesses whose reputation you are aware of and are recommended by family and friends.

0:35:180:35:24

Heather is keen to point out that no matter how distressing it may be to step into the affairs of relatives,

0:35:250:35:32

it is possible to stop them from being ripped off if you act fast and call for help.

0:35:320:35:38

Just oversee everything. Make sure they get quotes.

0:35:380:35:42

Keep an eye on what work is being done,

0:35:420:35:45

just so that these con men don't walk away with their money like unfortunately happened to my mum.

0:35:450:35:51

Absolutely shocking and our thanks to Heather for sharing their story.

0:35:530:35:58

Remember, once you've been given a quote, by law you're entitled to a seven-day cooling-off period

0:35:580:36:04

and no reputable tradesman will ever bully you into taking on work starting immediately.

0:36:040:36:10

What about Tamsin in Stockport? Our tradesman is pushing her with some real tricks.

0:36:100:36:15

-Good morning.

-Morning.

0:36:150:36:17

Her boyfriend Alan pretended that their fuse box was fizzing as an excuse to call Roger in.

0:36:170:36:24

There's nothing wrong with it, but our cowboy is trying to make Tamsin think her power is leaking away.

0:36:240:36:31

He's trying to sell her two gadgets she doesn't need and aims to make a 900% profit out of her.

0:36:310:36:36

What I would like to do is replace that fuse box with another one.

0:36:360:36:41

What I can do for the time being is just attach an energy conserver box to it,

0:36:430:36:48

which will be cheaper, it'll take that fizzing away.

0:36:480:36:52

-It does what a new fuse box would do without rewiring it.

-If that's what needs to be done...

-OK, lovely.

0:36:520:36:59

By offering Tamsin this fake energy conserver, he's tricked her into what seems like a cheaper option,

0:36:590:37:05

but it's still £250 for a useless plastic box.

0:37:050:37:10

Roger is on a roll with his dirty tricks and it can't be long before he tries to sell her another gadget.

0:37:100:37:16

The energy conserver is, fitted, about 250 quid.

0:37:160:37:20

It will save you money because all your electricity at the moment is going nowhere.

0:37:200:37:26

Also, I've got some smart meters.

0:37:260:37:29

I can put one round the power cable,

0:37:290:37:32

then it shows you how much electricity you're using.

0:37:320:37:35

I buy those smart meters wholesale.

0:37:350:37:37

They're usually about 110 quid, but I'd do it for 75 quid for the smart meter.

0:37:370:37:44

Oh, you rotter! You and I know that they only cost around £35,

0:37:440:37:49

so you're charging over twice the price, one of the oldest tricks in the book.

0:37:490:37:55

-Just do the...

-The bit that needs to be done. All right, OK.

0:37:550:37:59

For you, it's just an option. You can always get one later on anyway.

0:37:590:38:03

Phew! That was a close one for Tamsin. At least she saved herself £75 on the smart meter.

0:38:030:38:10

But it looks like she's still in line for one of Roger's other rip-offs.

0:38:100:38:15

So I'm going to put the energy conserver box on. That's a good start. That's going to be 250 quid.

0:38:150:38:22

I didn't manage to get her to take the smart meter, but I'll push that a bit further.

0:38:220:38:27

I'll let her have a look at it, try and convince her and I might even give her a bit more discount on it,

0:38:270:38:33

just to see if I can close the sale.

0:38:330:38:36

First things first, Roger. You'd better install that energy conserving device,

0:38:360:38:41

even though it's an empty box that'll do nothing at all.

0:38:410:38:45

Right, we'll just stick these in.

0:38:450:38:47

Unbelievable! He's just pushing that wire into a hole in the wall.

0:38:530:38:57

I've put it upside down, but it won't matter. It works either way.

0:38:580:39:03

I don't know how you can do this with a straight face, Roger.

0:39:030:39:07

That's great. I've fitted the unit, or I've poked the wires through to make it look like it's fitted.

0:39:100:39:16

She'll think that's been done, so I'll get some money from her now.

0:39:160:39:20

-All right?

-There you go.

-That's it, yeah.

0:39:200:39:23

-That bit just clamps round...

-The meter thing.

0:39:230:39:26

He's still determined to make some money out of that smart meter.

0:39:260:39:30

When you're watching TV, you can have it up there and you can find out how much it costs to watch TV!

0:39:300:39:36

Tamsin looks like she just wants Roger out of the house.

0:39:360:39:39

Some tradesmen can intimidate their victims so much, they pay them just to leave,

0:39:390:39:45

so will she fall for this old trick?

0:39:450:39:47

-So, no smart box for you then?

-Not this time.

-OK, that's all right.

0:39:470:39:52

Good for you, Tamsin.

0:39:520:39:54

So that's just 250 for the unit and 50 quid for the testing and call-out.

0:39:540:39:59

Hang on, Roger. You didn't mention the extra £50 earlier.

0:39:590:40:03

That's a really dirty trick.

0:40:030:40:06

Today, Tamsin Hill let an unknown electrician into her home without checking his ID.

0:40:070:40:13

Roger duped her with waffle and fancy tools and has installed an empty plastic box.

0:40:130:40:20

She's agreed to a £250 job that didn't need doing

0:40:210:40:25

and now our cowboy has upped his quote by £50.

0:40:250:40:29

Will Tamsin pay up?

0:40:290:40:31

All right.

0:40:320:40:34

Lovely. Thanks very much indeed.

0:40:360:40:38

Yes, she does - £300 for fitting a useless gadget!

0:40:380:40:42

-Hopefully, I'll see you again.

-I'm sure the feeling isn't mutual.

0:40:420:40:47

Our cowboy is off to his next job, no doubt to try and take another customer for a ride.

0:40:470:40:53

Now he's out of sight, it's time for our producer to step in and reveal the truth to Tamsin.

0:40:540:41:00

-Hello.

-Hi. We're asking people if they've had any odd experiences.

0:41:010:41:07

We're looking into plumbers, electricians.

0:41:070:41:11

I've just had my electricity looked at.

0:41:110:41:14

What did they do exactly?

0:41:140:41:16

They've added some kind of box underneath my fuse box

0:41:160:41:20

because there's some electricity currents escaping. I don't know exactly what that does.

0:41:200:41:25

Did they fix the problem? Were you happy with the work?

0:41:250:41:28

Yeah, they've put the box on.

0:41:280:41:31

I think you may have just paid £300 for not much work at all, really.

0:41:310:41:36

LAUGHS ANXIOUSLY

0:41:360:41:38

Right, OK.

0:41:380:41:40

OK... Mummy's going to be in trouble!

0:41:420:41:45

Time for boyfriend Alan to step forward and put Tamsin out of her misery.

0:41:450:41:51

Hello. Why aren't you at work?

0:41:540:41:56

I thought I'd take the opportunity to play a little prank.

0:41:560:42:00

Roger was very convincing.

0:42:000:42:03

I never for one moment thought that he was doing anything other than exactly what he said he was doing.

0:42:030:42:09

-It's all counted.

-Thank you very much.

-Can I have a receipt, please(?)

0:42:090:42:14

Before I let any more workmen in, make sure that you're prepared,

0:42:140:42:18

that you ask lots of questions and you're happy with the answers you get

0:42:180:42:22

because it's so easy to accept what people say without a second glance

0:42:220:42:27

because you feel silly or you just don't have a clue.

0:42:270:42:31

But just try and make sure you know what's going on because otherwise you can just be scammed.

0:42:310:42:37

Thanks for taking it so well, Tamsin.

0:42:400:42:42

You can rely on the majority of tradesmen being honest and hard-working.

0:42:420:42:47

It's only a very few who let the side down and play dirty tricks.

0:42:470:42:51

But remember, if in doubt, keep them out. Thanks for watching. I'll see you next time.

0:42:510:42:56

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2011

0:43:100:43:14

Email [email protected]

0:43:160:43:19

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

A Hampshire businessman sets up his wife Tina on her birthday for a visit from our bogus gas man. Some present! Roger fakes a pressure drop in their central heating system and tries to charge a fortune to fix it. Meanwhile a taxi driver sets up his girlfriend Tamsin, and tells her their fuse box is 'fizzing'. Roger claims that it is leaking power into the ground, so will she pay the extortionate sum he demands for a special energy conserving gadget?

Also, a Cheshire woman explains how her mother was repeatedly targeted by ruthless tradesmen who took advantage of the elderly consumer's failing memory and conned her out of 6,300 pounds.