A bogus workman who targeted vulnerable consumers has been jailed for 27 months for attempted fraud, following a joint investigation by Police Scotland and Stirling & Clackmannanshire Trading Standards Service.
Stuart Burns (40) from Stirling claimed to be working as a roofer when he made an unsolicited visit to an elderly woman in Clackmannan in June this year. He took advantage of her trust and convinced her that urgent repairs were required to the roof of her house. He showed her some pieces of damp, rotten wood and told her that these had been taken from the timbers in her loft. The homeowner was greatly alarmed by this, and agreed for the work to go ahead. Burns then demanded £3000 in cash.
A subsequent inspection by Trading Standards revealed that no work had been done to the roof, and that the wooden timbers were in very good condition with no evidence of water damage and no need for any repair work.
Burns, who was already under investigation for a similar incident in the Perth area, was charged with various offences. He pleaded guilty to attempted fraud in relation to both incidents at Perth Sheriff Court on 8 November 2016, and was sentenced to a total of 27 months imprisonment.
Spokesperson for Environment & Housing Kathleen Martin said: "This was a callous act by an individual who attempted to take advantage of an elderly and vulnerable local resident for his own financial gain. Our Trading Standards team and Police Scotland have been working together to tackle such incidents, so it is very satisfying to see that the Courts are prepared to impose such strict penalties. We hope that this will serve as a deterrent to anyone else planning such a fraud."
The advice from Trading Standards is simple - be very wary of traders who make unsolicited visits to your home and try to convince you that urgent repairs are required. If you want work done, get quotes from at least three reputable traders. Don't be afraid to ask for references or testimonials from previous customers. Be clear about what you want done, and make sure that you have everything written down beforehand. Fix the price before any work is started, and don't agree to anything unless you're sure about what is being offered.
Finally, the law is very clear in relation to contracts which are made in a consumer's home - traders are required to provide a 14 day cooling-off period and must give you written details of your right to cancel when the cost of the work exceeds £42.
If you are concerned about a cold-caller or feel intimidated by a trader who has made an unsolicited visit to your home and is trying to pressurise you into getting work done, call Police Scotland on 101 or contact Trading Standards on 01786 404040.