Episode 6 Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen


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Episode 6

Hidden-camera series. A London city worker sets up her husband Vik for a visit from our pretend rogue plumber, when the couple fear they have a leak under their bath.


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Transcript


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These days, our money has to work even harder for us and a big expenditure is on 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?

-Hard to say. I reckon 325.

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-300 quid for doing that.

-Probably about seven and a half grand.

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With audacious secret filming, we'll reveal how easy it could be

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for you to be duped.

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-You've been ripped off. He's not a bona fide tradesman.

-He's not?!

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There was something suspicious.

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BLEEP BLEEP

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

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

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The house was a death trap.

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No other word for it - conned.

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On today's show: our rogue tradesman Roger tricks a streetwise IT consultant

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into paying hundreds of pounds to repair his bathroom floor, although there's nothing wrong with it!

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We've got rot. I've seen baths fall through the ceiling.

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If we say 300 quid for doing that.

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The shocking tricks played by rogue London brothers who faked pipe leaks with spray bottles.

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-It took a daring police surveillance operation to bring them to justice.

-He covers his hand with a glove,

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making sure to leave no fingerprints.

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And Roger's tricking a Berkshire man into thinking his garden tree is threatening his foundations.

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-Only expensive gadgets will save his house.

-It makes the roots want to go deeper into the ground

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rather than spreading out. We can do that for 400 quid.

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Stand by for Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen.

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Hello. Now let's be honest. Most of us know little about plumbing, electrics, roofing.

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So we put our trust in tradesmen and we expect them to play fair.

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Of course, the vast majority do play fair. It's a small minority who turn rogue and make life a misery

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for thousands of us each year.

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We're meeting people who have been ripped off by dodgy tradesmen,

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plus with your help we can reveal how easy it is to fall for a typical set of tradesmen's tricks.

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Our viewers have set up their friends and relatives to receive a visit from our very own tradesman.

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Why? To show you how to avoid being taken for a ride.

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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 go against everything he believes in 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

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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 works with our cameraman Luke, 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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According to statistics from the insurance industry,

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one-third of home owners often fail to ask for proof of ID when they let tradesmen into their homes.

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Roger's on his way to meet a polite young office worker from Essex to try an outrageous rip-off.

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No proof of ID or qualifications. Just lies.

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Recently married, Channi and Vik Patel have been together since 2006.

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Both work in London where she's in finance and he's in IT.

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She thinks her man's a streetwise cookie.

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I don't think Vik will fall for the set-up,

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only because he's reluctant to part with any money.

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So I think he would just say no to anything he quotes him

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and he won't get anything done.

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They just moved to Essex and Channi says she can hear dripping in the bathroom.

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That's Roger's cue for a rip-off.

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It's never a good idea to ignore these little drips,

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-so we need a few props.

-I found this on the beach of my home town, Frinton on Sea.

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-It's a bit long, really. Let's shorten it down a bit.

-Oh, my God. Are you...?

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-That's more like what we want.

-OK.

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-We're going to plant that bit under the bath.

-OK.

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If I can get them to believe that's been created by the drip, I can tell them the lot's rotten.

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Cunning. And Roger's spicing up the plank with a dusty topping.

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This cobweb spray can be picked up in any joke shop.

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There you go.

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So having planted that under Vik's bath, Roger's second trick will be

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to make him think the whole floor's so rotten it's at risk of collapse.

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Then he'll overcharge for an instant spray treatment to the tune of around £300.

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Finally, if Vik falls for it, he'll try and sign up some long-term business

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to replace the whole floor.

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Roger will spring his bath night swindle when Vik's home from work.

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A reputable tradesman would charge an estimated £60 to fix a tiny leak

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and, of course, there's nothing wrong with their floor.

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But Roger is after big bucks. It's just after 7 o'clock when he calls.

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-Hello. Are you Vik?

-Hello. Upstairs.

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What we've noticed is when I'm having a shower, there's a dripping noise.

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It's coming from somewhere here.

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-If I turn it on...

-Yeah.

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Roger's straight in without an ID check. Vik's made his first mistake.

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If you turn it off quickly...

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-Yeah. That's all right.

-Roger's recognised the constant tapping is something totally harmless.

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-Worth its weight in gold to a conman.

-I'll just grab a few tools and a torch and have a look.

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He's got this clicking sound. Every time he uses the shower, he hears drip, drip, drip. It's not a drip.

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What it is is the hot pipe trapped under the floorboard and it's expanding.

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It's a very common thing. A lot of people know about this from their central heating.

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It doesn't mean it's a leak.

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So that's easy. What I'll do is get on with it

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and go in there and take the panel off and we'll see if we can find a bit of the old dry rot.

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With tools under his belt, Roger returns to carry out his cunning plan.

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-You guys want a drink?

-I'd love one. A cup of tea.

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Have you got lapsang souchong tea? Or what is it?

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I was only kidding.

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Nice tactic. Disarming Vik with your personality.

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While he makes posh tea, Roger starts taking the bath to bits - groundwork for his first trick.

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-Here we are. Can you put that somewhere safe, mate?

-Yeah.

-So it won't get trodden on.

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-Hang on, mate. I'll be back.

-Whilst the coast is clear, Roger slips out for a torch

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and some props to do his tricks, leaving Luke to practise his banter.

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-Are you just learning?

-Yeah.

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-I used to work in aggregates. What line of business are you in?

-I'm in IT.

-Oh, OK.

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With a quick flick of the wrist, he hides the cobwebby wood up his shirt and returns to the house.

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Roger, don't worry. You don't look suspicious, just fat.

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-All right, Rog?

-Yeah. Torch.

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Roger tries to win Vik's confidence with a stream of fascinating bathroom facts which he's made up.

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Do you know what, there's something like 75% of all call backs,

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like new houses, are leaks around the bath or shower.

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And that's in new houses.

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Yeah. I had a leak in the kitchen where the light is.

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-Yeah, yeah.

-The light was hanging and I had to take that away.

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No! Vik's broken the golden rule. He should watch like a hawk.

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Now Roger has a chance to spray extra cobwebs under the bath

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and finally play his first dirty trick.

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-That was a close one!

-Right, OK. If you look under there...

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Now he's slipped his wood into position, how will he use it to convince Vik?

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Watch out for meaningless waffle.

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-When you start looking, we've got rot.

-Yeah.

-Come around here.

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This is where the previous leak is. And it's all weak.

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We've got some evidence of a bit of fungus.

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There goes the cobwebby wood. Shame Roger's camera can't see it as he put a lot of effort in.

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I've seen baths where they have fallen through the ceiling before.

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That's in more extreme situations.

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-What I would suggest I do with it now is spray the whole thing.

-Right.

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-Just to stop the rot from going any further.

-Right.

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If you want to go for something more extensive, we'd have to talk to the insurance company probably.

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-Do you think insurance will cover this?

-Oh, yeah, yeah.

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Vik's looking doubtful, but Roger's sneakily sown the seeds to overcharge several hundred pounds

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for a useless dry rot treatment spray.

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If I give that a quick spray, if we say 300 quid for doing that...

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Naughty Roger.

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So how much will Vik agree to pay for this bogus treatment?

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I'm not sure how much I've got. Will you do a discount?

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And how will he feel when he realises he's been conned?

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I think I'd have cried as well.

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For Vik's sake, let's hope it doesn't end in tears.

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Unfortunately, spraying water and lying about ceiling repairs happened to dozens of home owners,

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the shocking work of two brothers who went to prison in 2011.

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Various police forces and trading standards teams joined forces to bring them to justice

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and their conviction is proof that crime never pays.

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This is the story of two rogue brothers - James and Robert Vincent -

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who preyed on old people in south London for years.

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Their case goes right back to 2003 when they were imprisoned for fraud.

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Detective Sergeant Keith Simmonett remembers them well.

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I was aware of the Vincent brothers being arrested in 2003

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for offences against the elderly,

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constantly ripping them off.

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You don't forget that.

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The trick they used was to befriend elderly people in the street or by cold calling on them at home.

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They would fake problems - spraying water on a ceiling as damp -

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and then demand money there and then to fix it.

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In May 2010 after the brothers were released from prison, they started up again.

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The police became aware of an elderly gentleman being approached in Eltham.

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He was befriended by two males who stated they had conducted previous work at his address.

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He was then followed home. The males knocked on his door,

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conned their way into his address.

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They sprayed water on the ceilings, stating that he had an urgent leak that needed repairs

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or his premises could collapse.

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Unfortunately, the gentleman handed over £2,000 for work not required.

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£2,000 for spraying water on the ceiling.

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When the victim raised the alarm, police suspected the Vincent brothers right away.

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By this time, their tactics had become infamous.

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But this wasn't an isolated case. DS Simmonett was alerted to eight similar scams

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across south London. And Kent Police supplied crucial evidence -

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a picture of one Vincent brother taken by one of their covert cameras.

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They'd installed it in the home of an elderly victim who was repeatedly targeted by rogue tradesmen.

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He'd been duped for bogus work, stating that water was leaking from his ceiling at his address.

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Kent Police sent that image through to us. I recognised Robert Vincent.

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With evidence tying him to the scene, Robert Vincent was arrested and charged

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before the court released him on bail. But what about his brother?

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Trading Standards at nearby Bromley were also aware of the Vincent Brothers.

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Rob Vale headed the investigation there.

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When you start investigating a case like this, you very quickly become quite passionate about it.

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You've got vulnerable victims being targeted by ruthless individuals.

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In August, a phone call came in to Trading Standards from a local resident

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who suspected a bogus workman at a neighbour's house.

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As soon as we got the call, the details were that it was an older consumer and property repairs.

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She was concerned that the neighbour was the victim of a scam.

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We've got alarm bells ringing. Our protocol is that we go to the scene immediately.

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Lo and behold, they caught James Vincent in the act.

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As suspected, he was taking money from the victim for roofing work that didn't need doing.

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-Like his brother, he was charged, but released on bail.

-It was important that we got them.

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They're prolific offenders, repeat offenders and they target the most vulnerable people.

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We want to stop them doing that.

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With the brothers loose again, police kept a close eye on them.

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There was a team of more than 20 officers involved,

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Due to the vulnerability of the victims, we feared they'd commit further offences.

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For four days they watched as the two brothers drove around, occasionally calling at houses

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that looked like they might belong to pensioners. Staggering behaviour for criminals on bail,

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to continue going about their deceitful business.

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On the fourth day, Robert Vincent called on an elderly couple.

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Police set up a surveillance camera in the house opposite.

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On the footage, the elderly victim is just going to his vehicle.

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He's on the way to the bank to withdraw some money because the repair work is £2,800.

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As you can see, Robert Vincent leaves the premises.

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He covers his hand with a glove to leave no fingerprints behind.

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Note that he's wearing glasses.

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He doesn't normally wear glasses.

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James Vincent picked up his brother in a car around the corner

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and followed the elderly victim to the bank. This intimidating tactic is a common trick

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to make sure the rogues get their money. It was at this point the police moved in on them.

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As we tried to arrest them, James Vincent thought different

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and he then drove like an absolute lunatic for a three-mile chase.

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He was driving up pavements, causing danger to pedestrians, through a hospital car park,

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and if he'd not been stopped, someone may have been seriously injured.

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In February, 2011, James and Robert Vincent were sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison

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for fraud and dangerous driving.

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Later, the London company which took money from customers' bank accounts without their knowledge

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to pay for work they didn't want!

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He took money from me without my permission and I was worried that if he'd do that to me,

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he'd do it to other people.

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

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Roger turns into a treacherous tree surgeon and hits a pensioner with one lie after another.

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-Does it show?

-No, we bury it.

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It's fully guaranteed. You'll be all right.

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-Hello, are you Vik?

-But first it's time to find out if streetwise Vik Patel from Essex

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falls for Roger's tricks. It was his wife who set him up.

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Now Roger's trying to convince him that his bathroom floor could collapse at any moment.

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Our cowboy will overcharge Vik for a special treatment spray, which is just water and wood hardener.

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And he wants £300 for that. Roger's getting more tools when Vik finally makes up his mind.

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-Yeah, spray it.

-You want us to spray it?

-Yeah.

-OK, we'll get on it.

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Thank you!

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Vik's a lovely fella. He's gone for it. He's decided to spend the money, have the spray job, 300 quid.

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We'll be in there about half an hour, something like that.

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And then we'll be on our way with some money. Good result for us.

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Roger's van is packed with props for every possible scam.

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He's filled his spray pump with wood varnish and water. It smells like it should do good.

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Vik is keeping a close eye on him and probably both nostrils, too.

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-Has he started to smell a rat yet?

-These guys from the dry rot and woodworm companies phone me up

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because I'm a plumber and they say, "If you can find us any dry rot jobs, refer them to us

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"and if we get the job we'll give you 500 quid."

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So what are they charging? You know?

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Food for thought, Roger. Or a deliberate distraction

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so Vik doesn't notice you're spraying so little fluid?

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Roger's kept up his spray of banter for so long

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that day has turned into night.

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Vik's eardrums must be throbbing, if not his floorboards.

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We've given him a spray up. Most of the time we were talking and I was pretending to spray.

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Now I want to go back and ask him for the money. If he pays me £300 for that, about 20 minutes' work,

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we'll be doing very well for ourselves. We'll have to see how we go. Fingers crossed.

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Wish me luck.

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Today Vik Patel has let in a tricky tradesman who has put the dampeners on his night in.

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He's sprayed cobwebs all over the bathroom floor and pumped a useless coating of water and varnish

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over the floorboards, all to stop a drip.

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Will our customer pay up?

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-OK?

-Yeah.

-That's done.

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-300 quid.

-I'm not sure how much I've got. You do a discount?

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Ah...yeah, we can let you off with the fluid. What do you...?

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Even with the job finished, Vik's trying to negotiate the cost down.

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-Will he get the better of our rogue?

-260.

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Eh...

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-Yeah, I'm reluctant to because...

-It's fine.

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-Yeah, yeah, it's fine.

-I'll discount you on the next job, but I've had a bad day.

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-Two...lovely.

-Sorry about that, mate.

-If I had just put 100 quid in the fuel tank...

-Yeah.

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..which is what it costs me to fill that van up, I'd feel more generous. Plus it's Friday night.

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-All right.

-Thank you very much.

-And you...

-I'll send you an estimate for the insurance company.

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And see what they say, yeah?

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Vik's chasing our rogue for a receipt, but Roger doesn't want to leave any evidence.

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-I'll send it the old-fashioned snail mail way.

-Vik shouldn't let him go without a receipt for the work

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-and for the money paid.

-Cheers. I've got it.

-Have a nice evening.

-Take care.

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Roger's gone, leaving Vik £300 down for nothing.

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No second opinion, no written quotation, not even a receipt,

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all because Vik was rushed into a job he didn't actually need doing.

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With Roger hiding around the corner, with Vik's wife, who set up her husband,

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it's time for our producer to pay the consumer a visit and reveal the truth of the scam.

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Hi, mate. I'm doing a programme about rogue traders and so on.

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-Have you had any done today?

-I just had one guy.

-Really?

-Yeah.

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-Can you tell me what he did?

-He sprayed this spray that will stop the wood from, like,

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breaking up, basically. You know, when wood gets wet.

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-If I was to tell you that Roger Bisby has been ripping people off...

-It wouldn't surprise me.

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-How does that feel if you've been ripped off?

-It's gone now, isn't it? There's not a lot I can do.

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-It's time to tell him the good news.

-If I told you we've set you up with the help of your wife,

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-who is just coming now...

-Oh, my God! Are you serious?

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BLEEP

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- You gave him all our money? - If I'd lost that for nothing,

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that would play on my mind.

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I think I'd have cried as well.

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-Here it is, my friend.

-Ah! You gave me a shock.

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There was a feeling in me that something wasn't right.

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-You were watching so much.

-Yeah.

-That's a good thing.

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My advice is to get quotes. Ask people, people you know, friends, family.

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Get something in writing. Don't rush it, like I did today.

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And, em...

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make sure the people you are getting are legit people.

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Cheers.

0:22:490:22:51

Vik was such a good sport there, but what can you and I do to avoid being ripped off?

0:22:510:22:58

For a start, never agree to the work starting the same day.

0:22:580:23:02

And always get a receipt. Vik would have had a way of bringing Roger to book.

0:23:020:23:08

And, most important of all, if in doubt, keep them out.

0:23:080:23:12

Now I've been impressed to find out that there's a regulator for almost every type of domestic trade.

0:23:150:23:21

Roofers, electricians, even tree surgeons.

0:23:210:23:24

When it comes to giant oaks and sycamores, you need the pros,

0:23:240:23:29

not a couple of cowboys with big smiles and a shiny van,

0:23:290:23:32

but that isn't stopping Roger from visiting a family in Berkshire.

0:23:320:23:37

Shop manager Matthew Dibley is very close to his father Ian, who loves playing tricks on friends.

0:23:390:23:46

He knows quite a bit about DIY. He's always doing things around the house, fixing things.

0:23:460:23:52

He usually tries to do things before calling someone out.

0:23:520:23:55

When it comes to building work, Matthew thinks his father can be gullible and may fall for a prank.

0:23:550:24:02

If someone says something needs doing, he'll probably go with it without checking other quotes.

0:24:020:24:08

Ian and his wife live here in Berkshire with a large tree outside.

0:24:080:24:12

Matthew has faked a letter from the council saying the trees' roots could be causing a problem.

0:24:120:24:18

That's all our tricky tradesman needs.

0:24:180:24:22

We're going to create a scam by lying a fairy ring around the outside of the tree

0:24:220:24:28

to stop the roots from spreading. It's like bonsai technology.

0:24:280:24:32

-What have you got?

-Some tent pegs for you.

-Are we going camping?

0:24:320:24:37

Not exactly, no. And I've got a little pamphlet

0:24:370:24:41

which gives a little brief description of how this works.

0:24:410:24:46

This is important. This has got a lot of technical phrases

0:24:460:24:50

and hopefully will bamboozle the householder with science and make them think this nonsense works.

0:24:500:24:56

So Roger's tricks include the use of fake literature,

0:24:560:25:01

also a fake root treatment using wire and tent pegs for which he'll charge a fortune,

0:25:010:25:07

a third trick will worry Ian about the roots affecting the value of his home by damaging the foundations.

0:25:070:25:13

Simple, but will Ian allow Roger to get to the root of the problem?

0:25:130:25:18

There are genuine methods available for containing tree roots,

0:25:180:25:23

but they usually cost thousands of pounds. Roger intends to charge

0:25:230:25:27

around £400, which will sound like a bargain.

0:25:270:25:31

He's using wire and tent pegs that cost him no more than £20.

0:25:310:25:35

That's quite a profitable scam.

0:25:350:25:38

Matthew has told his dad to expect the workmen at around three.

0:25:390:25:43

Hello. We got the right place. Sorry if we were a bit late.

0:25:480:25:52

That's all right. My son organised it. I'd a letter from the council.

0:25:520:25:57

I was away. He picked up the letter and he says, "Just have it checked."

0:25:570:26:02

-Yeah. This one.

-Yeah.

0:26:020:26:05

We've been here 25, 30 years. We haven't had any problems.

0:26:050:26:10

-Somebody told me it usually goes out to the...sort of like the width of the tree.

-Yeah.

0:26:100:26:17

It sounds like Ian has done some research already.

0:26:170:26:22

Tree roots can spread horizontally as far as the tree is tall. Roger has to think fast

0:26:220:26:28

to get Ian interested. He decides on his most worrying trick first,

0:26:280:26:33

rattling him with a sudden devaluation of the property.

0:26:330:26:37

-Are you going to sell this house?

-Yeah.

-Are you? It's highly likely

0:26:370:26:42

that that tree will be a factor. The trouble with surveyors is

0:26:420:26:46

they always hedge their bets. Insurance companies are paranoid.

0:26:460:26:51

They've got so many subsidence claims and that's made them err on the side of caution.

0:26:510:26:56

When the person who buys your house wants insurance for subsidence,

0:26:560:27:01

the insurance companies are saying, "We won't cover it because of the proximity of the tree."

0:27:010:27:07

-It wasn't anything to do with selling the house.

-No, no.

0:27:070:27:11

Good try, Roger, but Ian's having none of it. You've come up against a customer

0:27:110:27:17

-who can stand up to your flannel.

-We've got a device we can put round the tree

0:27:170:27:22

to limit the root growth out.

0:27:220:27:26

And it just makes the roots go downwards, so it won't interfere with the house.

0:27:260:27:31

If we do that, we can guarantee the future of the tree and you can put that on the house deeds

0:27:310:27:37

-for the next people.

-I think Roger may have his work cut out here.

0:27:370:27:42

He's got a client who wants a quote before the work is done and who isn't falling for any old cobblers.

0:27:420:27:49

-How is Roger going to ensure he nails this job?

-We could do that for 400 quid.

0:27:490:27:54

Then you get a guarantee with it. If somebody buys your house

0:27:540:27:59

and they've knocked money off because of that tree, you lose that money anyway. So...

0:27:590:28:05

Ian doesn't look convinced, but another dirty trick is coming. Go on, blind him with science.

0:28:050:28:12

Basically, it's like an earthing rod that goes round there.

0:28:120:28:16

It just basically creates an equipotential zone

0:28:160:28:20

and then that makes the roots want to go downwards, deeper into the grounds, rather than out.

0:28:200:28:27

-I'll tell you what I'll do. If it does come up on the survey, I'll come back to you.

-Yeah.

0:28:270:28:33

OK. Yeah.

0:28:330:28:35

Good on you, Ian. Look at Roger's face. It says it all. Has he met his match?

0:28:350:28:41

So how much joy will he have talking Ian into a job he doesn't need?

0:28:420:28:47

We'll send you a written guarantee.

0:28:470:28:49

Will this smart consumer see through Roger's fake credentials?

0:28:490:28:54

-I just tried to get into your website and I couldn't get into it.

-Do you want me to find out why?

-Yeah.

0:28:540:29:00

You go for it, Ian. Roger's making great use of scare tactics and faked paperwork,

0:29:040:29:09

but they are just two examples of the tricks real rogues use.

0:29:090:29:14

One of the oldest tricks in their book is to turn up at a consumer's home for one reason

0:29:140:29:19

and, once they have access, develop it into something far more expensive which usually doesn't need doing.

0:29:190:29:26

That happened to Jane Ford and Diana Pottinger when they got in touch with Gardenbase Ltd

0:29:270:29:34

and were taken to the cleaners.

0:29:340:29:37

Money had been taken for work I hadn't agreed to.

0:29:370:29:40

He'd taken every penny I had.

0:29:400:29:42

Gardenbase Ltd, not to be confused with companies with a similar name, was set up by Christopher Marino

0:29:420:29:48

and was known in north London for its advertising. That's how Jane and Diana first found it.

0:29:480:29:54

When Diana mentioned her need for interior work as well, Gardenbase were only too pleased to quote.

0:29:540:30:01

I needed him to fix a hole in the wall of my downstairs shower.

0:30:010:30:05

He charged me a fee

0:30:050:30:09

for coming round to do the estimate. £17.50.

0:30:090:30:13

I agreed to this because I was anxious to get it done.

0:30:130:30:16

That was the first trick. Both Diana and Jane agreed to pay £17.50 for Christopher Marino to visit them,

0:30:160:30:23

which seems quite steep when he should be keen for their custom.

0:30:230:30:28

Unfortunately, they had no idea that he had past form for disreputable behaviour

0:30:280:30:34

going back to 2006.

0:30:340:30:37

He gave us a commitment that he would start trading fairly. He didn't.

0:30:370:30:41

He then gave a commitment to the court that he'd trade within the law, he would do a good job,

0:30:410:30:47

he would make sure he gave the correct paperwork and he wouldn't take money without permission.

0:30:470:30:52

-Again, he didn't.

-By 2009, it seems he was still not trading within the law

0:30:520:30:59

and using dirty tricks on his clients. When he quoted Jane £5,000 for garden work,

0:30:590:31:04

which included a new rockery, he talked his way into her house - and not just to write out his quote.

0:31:040:31:12

Because my home was quite in need of redecoration and refurbishment

0:31:120:31:18

he noticed and really before I'd even signed the documentation for the garden work deposit

0:31:180:31:25

he was pestering me regarding the interior work,

0:31:250:31:29

wandering round my property, uninvited.

0:31:290:31:33

I did become quite worried about this, very concerned.

0:31:330:31:38

Jane resisted his face to face sales patter, but he continued to pester her by phone.

0:31:380:31:45

He hit her with a quote of £18,000 to renovate her rockery and redecorate her house.

0:31:450:31:51

A bit steep.

0:31:510:31:53

I said I couldn't afford to have that done as well as the gardening work

0:31:540:31:58

and he said... Well, he offered £10,000. Could I afford that?

0:31:580:32:03

And I still declined.

0:32:030:32:05

It was extremely strange and quite worrying.

0:32:050:32:10

Quite a drop. He must have been desperate. Jane knew something was wrong, but couldn't figure it out.

0:32:100:32:16

And she was unaware of another trick Marino had buried in the small print of his paperwork.

0:32:160:32:22

It stated that the balance would be payable three days prior to completion of the work,

0:32:220:32:28

which I was not aware of. If I had been, I wouldn't have signed it.

0:32:280:32:33

Because Marino had taken her debit card details, he was able to take the total amount when it suited him

0:32:330:32:39

without her knowledge. By law, we're allowed a seven-day cooling off period for good and services

0:32:390:32:45

sold to us in our homes. Marino didn't tell Jane this.

0:32:450:32:49

He also promised written material which didn't arrive. A consumer helpline put her in touch

0:32:490:32:55

with Trading Standards who advised her how to cancel the work. But on her next bank statement,

0:32:550:33:01

Gardenbase Ltd had taken £2,200 from her account... for work she'd refused.

0:33:010:33:07

As well as taking the £2,000 deposit for the garden work,

0:33:080:33:13

he'd taken £200 which was unauthorised.

0:33:130:33:18

Shocking. Marino was playing similar financial tricks on Diana Pottinger.

0:33:190:33:23

He'd quoted £1,800 for work on her shower, but had withdrawn £2,600 from her account

0:33:230:33:31

before the job was even finished. Trading Standards later estimated the value of his work at just £900.

0:33:310:33:38

So massive overcharging and premature withdrawals of funds.

0:33:380:33:43

He lied to me. He took money from me without my permission

0:33:430:33:48

and I was worried that if he would do that to me, he'd do it to others.

0:33:480:33:54

The law caught up with Marino again. In March, 2011, he pleaded guilty

0:33:540:33:59

to 13 charges of contempt of court and was given a 28-day prison sentence, suspended for two years.

0:33:590:34:06

Jane got all her money back and Marino repaid Diana £780.

0:34:060:34:10

Gardenbase Ltd is in liquidation.

0:34:100:34:14

I think it's very worrying that rogue traders

0:34:150:34:20

can use that sort of facade to deceive people.

0:34:200:34:25

There's no protection against that. I did all the checks

0:34:250:34:29

and I was still deceived.

0:34:290:34:33

So be wary of paying for quotes, always read the small print

0:34:330:34:37

and don't empower tradesmen with the means to charge your debit or credit card whenever they see fit.

0:34:370:34:43

What's more, if you suspect that you or one of your friends is at risk of being ripped off,

0:34:430:34:49

it does no harm at all to check with your local Trading Standards.

0:34:490:34:53

Now will Ian Dibley in Berkshire realise he's on the receiving end of a serious con trick?

0:34:530:34:59

-This one.

-Yeah.

-If you remember, Roger is trying to con him out of £400 for a special system

0:34:590:35:06

to stop the spread of his tree roots, but Ian doesn't seem convinced by that towering quote.

0:35:060:35:12

I'll tell you what I'll do. If it comes up on the survey, I'll come back to you.

0:35:120:35:18

Hang on, Roger. What do rogue tradesmen do with a tricky customer? They push their luck.

0:35:180:35:25

Roger needs Ian to agree to the work now or he may look for quotes elsewhere and discover the rip-off.

0:35:250:35:31

Suddenly, Luke remembers they have another trick to play.

0:35:310:35:35

Have you got that pamphlet? Your leaflet?

0:35:350:35:38

Watch out, Ian.

0:35:380:35:40

Tradesmen of all kinds rely on literature to use as convincers

0:35:400:35:45

and the small print needs to be checked carefully to ensure the promises are genuine.

0:35:450:35:51

I just think it's investment. Once it's done...

0:35:510:35:55

Whenever you buy a house, you come along, don't you?

0:35:550:35:59

"There's a bit of a gutter problem there. Knock a couple of hundred off. There's a tree root problem.

0:35:590:36:05

"Knock a bit off there. Roof's all right, blah blah blah. Where's the guarantees on this?"

0:36:050:36:12

It's all about peace of mind in the end.

0:36:120:36:15

Ian has a phone conversation with son Matthew, who reassures his dad that the tradesman is bona fide.

0:36:150:36:22

It's proven technology.

0:36:220:36:24

-Well, it's 400 quid!

-Good old Ian. He's checking.

0:36:240:36:29

We'll do it cheaper.

0:36:290:36:31

Can you do it for 330?

0:36:330:36:36

350. How about that? Is that cash?

0:36:400:36:43

-We're doing ourselves here.

-Roger is desperate for his cash

0:36:430:36:48

-and, like many cowboy tradesmen, he's really pushing his luck.

-OK.

0:36:480:36:52

We'll send you a written guarantee on it and everything. Yeah?

0:36:520:36:56

-Well, I need that.

-Yeah.

-Ian is no fool. He thinks something's up, despite his son's reassurances.

0:36:560:37:03

So what is it you actually put in? A ring or something?

0:37:030:37:07

Yeah, it's equipotential bonding.

0:37:070:37:10

-It just makes the roots go...

-So how long does that take to do?

0:37:100:37:15

-A couple of hours, that's all.

-Does it show?

-No, no, no.

0:37:160:37:20

We bury it there.

0:37:200:37:22

OK? All right, we'll sort ourselves out, then get cracking. We could talk all day(!)

0:37:220:37:27

Well, he's gone for that.

0:37:320:37:34

I was...I was really starting to dig deep to make up a load of old nonsense there,

0:37:340:37:40

but he seemed to be fairly happy that it's all new technology.

0:37:400:37:45

It was way above his head, which is what we like. So he's buying into it.

0:37:450:37:50

He's gone away to read our leaflet and hopefully that will persuade him that we know what we're on about.

0:37:500:37:57

Let's get on. Let's do some work.

0:37:570:37:59

There you are, Luke. Give me that one.

0:37:590:38:03

-That'll do, just to there.

-Amazingly, Ian doesn't come out to inspect the job once.

0:38:030:38:10

If he had, the guys would surely have been rumbled - sawing lines in the lawn?

0:38:100:38:15

Filling them with cheap electric cable? Hammering in tent pegs?

0:38:150:38:20

Roger may as well be tying rope around the tree.

0:38:200:38:24

-You've made a nice job of that, Luke.

-I have, haven't I?

-Not too quick - here comes Ian

0:38:250:38:31

and he has some searching questions about that fake literature.

0:38:310:38:36

That's it. Done. Finito. All hidden in the ground.

0:38:390:38:43

-There's a rod there.

-Yeah.

0:38:430:38:46

I just went into your website, tried to get in.

0:38:460:38:50

-That's the company that makes the product.

-I couldn't get into it.

0:38:500:38:54

-Couldn't get in?

-I was trying to read about it.

-That's why I left it.

0:38:540:38:59

-You couldn't get into the website?

-No.

-Want me to find out why?

-Yeah.

0:38:590:39:04

This is brilliant. Ian's been online to check out Roger's fake website,

0:39:040:39:09

a website that doesn't exist. Ian could be about to rumble Roger.

0:39:090:39:13

I went on a training course with these people for two weeks and they told me

0:39:130:39:19

that all this would be up and running...by the time we took delivery of our first units.

0:39:190:39:24

Anyway, it's fully guaranteed. Any problem with it, we'll...

0:39:240:39:29

I'm just getting an answer phone message.

0:39:290:39:33

They're closed until... They're closed after 5.30.

0:39:330:39:36

It was all up and running, so I don't know what the problem is,

0:39:360:39:41

but we've just got to crack on. We've got another job.

0:39:410:39:45

Today DIY enthusiast Ian let a con man tackle the roots of his tree.

0:39:450:39:50

Roger used a ridiculous array of gadgets in an attempt to blind him with science.

0:39:500:39:55

So will Ian pay up?

0:39:550:39:57

That's all right. We'll sort it out.

0:40:000:40:04

-One, two, three four, five. 330.

-Yeah.

0:40:040:40:08

-Here you are. I don't trust him. I want to count again.

-YOU don't trust HIM?!

0:40:080:40:15

Not half as much as he doesn't trust you, but he's still paying up.

0:40:150:40:19

40, 60, 80, one ton.

0:40:190:40:22

20, 40, 60, 80, two ton.

0:40:220:40:26

All right, OK. 330. That's all right.

0:40:260:40:29

That's it. Money's changed hands.

0:40:290:40:32

Ian does at least have a receipt, but Roger's faked his address and it's not worth anything.

0:40:320:40:38

A £330 rip-off.

0:40:380:40:41

With Roger now out of sight, our producer calls on Ian to reveal the truth of the scam.

0:40:420:40:48

-Hello.

-We're from the BBC.

-Hello.

-We're doing a few investigations around the area.

0:40:480:40:55

-Right.

-And we were chatting t some of your neighbours

0:40:550:40:59

asking if anyone's had any experiences of various tradesmen...

0:40:590:41:04

Well, funnily enough, we just had a chap round.

0:41:040:41:08

He said he put electric fielding around the tree.

0:41:080:41:12

An electric field around a tree.

0:41:120:41:14

-I don't know if you ever heard of that.

-Do you mind me asking how much you gave to him?

-It was four...

0:41:140:41:21

Well, the bill was 400, yeah. £400.

0:41:210:41:25

-Did you pay by cheque?

-No, cash.

0:41:250:41:28

-Yeah.

-Where's that son, Matthew, when you need him?

0:41:280:41:33

Here they are! Have I been done? Have I been done?

0:41:330:41:37

-Sorry.

-We thought this would be good. How are you?

0:41:370:41:42

What have you done?

0:41:420:41:44

'Yes, I am pleased'

0:41:440:41:47

with the way I dealt with it. I was convinced I was being scammed.

0:41:470:41:52

-I shouldn't have left you with that piece of paper.

-No.

-That was too much information.

-It was, yes.

0:41:520:41:58

Not totally because my son was involved and he convinced me that it was the right thing to do,

0:41:580:42:06

but... I'd never do it again.

0:42:060:42:10

-Have I got to check it?

-Yeah.

-Really? Right.

0:42:120:42:16

'If any callers call now,'

0:42:160:42:18

I would definitely get ID.

0:42:180:42:22

And, you know, I think that's advisable for anybody to get ID

0:42:220:42:29

for any callers that call to the door because I've been scammed today,

0:42:290:42:34

but I wouldn't like to see anybody else get scammed.

0:42:340:42:39

Thanks for being such a great sport, Ian. Roger's played quite the rogue for us today

0:42:430:42:48

to help us see how rotten and devious some dirty tricksters can be. He's normally honest,

0:42:480:42:54

like the vast majority of tradesmen who you can rely on. Remember, if in doubt, keep them out.

0:42:540:43:01

Thanks for watching. See you next time.

0:43:010:43:04

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2011

0:43:130:43:18

Email [email protected]

0:43:210:43:23

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 London city worker sets up her husband Vik for a visit from our pretend rogue plumber, when the couple fear they have a leak under their bath. Roger plants a sample of dry rot to convince the IT man that his floor is rotting and will cost thousands of pounds to put right.

Later Roger tries to con Ian in Berkshire by claiming that the spreading roots of his tree are threatening his foundations. Will the cautious consumer cough up the cash required to ring-fence the roots with bogus technology?

Police and Trading Standards officers in south London tackle two brothers who demanded thousands of pounds from elderly consumers for fixing leaks that the brothers had faked.