Romford residents warned after elderly couple scammed out of £1,650 by rogue tree surgeons

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 October 2017

(Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

(Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Havering Council has issued a warning to residents after an elderly Romford couple were conned out of more than £1,600 by rogue tree surgeons.

The couple, who are 71 and 63 years old, were cold called by scammers who initially quoted them £49 to cut back bushes at the front of their house, this was increased to £300 each for both the back and front gardens.

They were then charged an extra £400 for a skip, which was never delivered.

The elderly pair were driven to multiple cash points to withdraw £1,650 using all of their debit and credit cards, and the incident only came to light when staff at Santander’s South Street branch became concerned by the couple’s request for an emergency overdraft.

As the manager and staff had been trained by Trading Standards Banking Protocol scheme, they gently questioned the customer before contacting the Metropolitan Police and Havering’s Trading Standards team.

When Trading Standards officers and police visited the couple’s home and heard their story, they confirmed the incident was a crime and began providing the necessary support.

Santander has offered the elderly couple a temporarily extended overdraft, while Age UK has assigned a case worker to try and help refund their money through a charitable grant.

An Age UK spokesperson said: “There’s no shame or embarrassment in falling victim to a scam – it happens to lots of people. If you report it, it may help to prevent others from experiencing the same thing.

“You can report it to Action Fraud – they may be able to track down the fraudster. You can also contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice.”

A Havering Council spokesman said the scam may have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for the borough’s banking protocol, which has helped London’s pensioners save more than £6million and the police make 14 arrests.

He said: “The Banking Protocol, which was developed in Havering in 2011 and adopted by the Metropolitan Police Service in October 2016, helps people who are being ripped-off by doorstep criminals.

“The protocol works by training bank staff to look out for unusual customer behaviour and to tactfully ask questions about the reason for the withdrawal.”

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