Residents are being urged to say ‘no’ to doorstep traders and warn friends and relatives of the risks of selling to, or buying from, uninvited callers.
In the Littlehampton and Sompting areas, residents were recently persuaded to let people into their homes but the callers then went into other rooms without permission. After one such visit, a Sompting resident discovered a watch was missing and the incident is being investigated by Sussex Police.
West Sussex Trading Standards Team Manager Richard Sargeant said: “The elderly are particularly vulnerable to a hard-sell, doorstep trader.
“We would always encourage residents to say ‘no’ to doorstep purchasers and to warn elderly friends and relatives of the risks of dealing with these individuals.
“Callers may, for example, offer to buy jewellery and other valuable items from you. They may offer you far less than the item is worth and pressure you to make a quick decision.”
Debbie Kennard, Cabinet Member for Stronger, Safer Communities, said: “Please don’t deal with doorstep traders and don’t allow strangers to enter your property, however convincing they appear to be, unless you are fully satisfied they are genuine and have a legitimate reason to be there.”
In the past, victims of doorstep callers have included:
Two strangers called at a dementia sufferer’s home and claimed to be buying gold. He allowed them inside, they found a collection of coins and took them, saying they would return but they did not.
An elderly Hassocks resident, suffering from the early stages of dementia, was approached by a trader claiming to value house contents with a view to purchasing items. The resident’s son contacted Trading Standards and officers provided robust advice on dealing with doorstep sellers and put up a ‘no cold callers’ sticker on his front door. They also highlighted the risk that callers could be ‘distraction burglars’, distracting people with a convincing story, such as the need to investigate a supposed gas leak, or water-pressure drop, while they, or an accomplice, sneaks into the house to steal things.
Men claiming to be antique/jewellery dealers made repeat visits to an elderly Littlehampton resident, who was persuaded to sell a large quantity of jewellery for well below the market value.
A doorstep caller looking to buy antiques and collectables was very persistent and pressurised the resident. The caller claimed the ‘for sale’ sign outside the home meant they ‘must have something to sell’.
You can request a free 'No cold calling' pack which includes a ‘no uninvited traders’ door sticker by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 01243 642124.
Free advice about all consumer problems is available from the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
To report an incident to Sussex Police call 101 or report online at www.sussex.police.uk Always call 999 in an emergency.