Head of Bromley Trading Standards, Rob Vale, and his team are justifiably proud of their achievements and the recognition these have attracted across the London Boroughs. They are keen to publicise the services they provide and urge residents to look out for the signs of scams and fraud and report these promptly.
But what do they do, how do they do it and what have they achieved?
What do they do?
They help protect residents from unsafe goods, unfair trading and, vulnerable residents, from financial abuse. They also have a role in protecting children from harmful products by using under age volunteers to test purchase age-restricted products such as alcohol and tobacco.
They actively disrupt the efforts of rogue traders and scammers and prosecute them, while also mitigating the effects on the victims of doorstep crime & scams.
They work in partnership with the Police and Banks to help identify, prevent and investigate scams, doorstep crime and Courier Fraud which tries to elicit PIN and account information from residents.
Cases currently under investigation involve tree companies scamming older residents. An 83-year-old was quoted £400 to remove a tree, then charged £3,600 for taking away the waste. Trading Standards have seen and dealt with this scam before. That resulted in the conviction for fraud and jailing of two men who were featured on Watchdog last year. One gang member remains at large but there will be news on this soon.
Another area of current investigation is into doorstep cold callers who have charged thousands for bogus property repairs. These include an elderly woman who lost £30,000 for bogus roof repairs, and an £18,000 fraud against another elderly woman which has wider links to a series of crimes across Croydon, Bexley and Greenwich
How have they gone about it?
In 2003, they established a local banking protocol which encourages bank staff to report unusual cash withdrawals by older customers, and they were the first London Borough to introduce a dedicated rapid response team. They are the only London Borough to provide this service 7 days a week.
They have established partnership working with national and regional specialist teams and close links with local police and other trading standards teams.
They deliver in excess of 80 talks and training events every year. By attending a “Friends Against Scams” awareness session, anyone can learn about the different types of scams and how to spot and support a victim. With increased knowledge and awareness, people can make scams part of everyday conversation with their family, friends and neighbours which will enable them to protect themselves and others. Anybody can be a Friend Against Scams and make a difference in their own way.
What have they achieved?
Since 2002 they have saved local residents more than £3 million and, since 2007, they have been involved in prosecuting 60 money launderers and fraudsters,
Examples include, saving an elderly man from losing his house to a rogue trader and, securing compensation for victims of a rogue trader gang via civil sanctions under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
In terms of wider recognition, the team won the Public Finance Local Government Award in 2006, and awards from the London Borough of Bromley in 2012 & 2016. These are the annual Bromley Stars award which recognise outstanding achievements across a number of categories including team of the year, leadership, partnership and employee of the year.
They have also featured on Cowboy Builders and Rogue Traders and have received 4 Borough Commander Commendations for rogue trader prosecutions
They are the only London borough to receive calls in excess of 240 per year on their Rapid Response Hotline and one of the first to embed an accredited financial investigator in the team. Bromley Trading Standards is one of only 5 London boroughs which provide a joint immediate response with police to calls from banks.
If you suspect someone is the victim of a scam or rogue trader, talk to that person and, if in doubt, contact Trading Standards
No call or referral is ever wasted – 07903 852090