Rogue traders have swindled elderly victims out of more than £600,000 since the start of the year, Sussex Police said today (Monday 12 August).
The force warned pensioners and their families and carers to beware after a rise in the number of reports of doorstep conmen last month.
One of their victims was a 71-year-old Brighton woman who wanted her garden redone.
Sussex Police said: “She had a flyer through her door for a gardener or landscaper so called him for a quote.
“The man visited and quoted £2,700 for her garden to be tidied and turf to be cleared.
“He said he would need at least £1,700 to get started with materials, etc.
“She gave him the full amount expecting him to return the next day and start as agreed.
“He never returned or contacted the victim.
“This type of crime across Sussex, together with other cold callers saying they are variously from the water companies or drain clearance companies gaining access and gaining cash, has increased.
“There were 67 similar reports in July, compared with 31 reports in June, 32 in May and 29 in April (with) 38 of the July reports in West Sussex, 12 in East Sussex and 17 in Brighton and Hove.
“So far in 2019 there have been 261 such reports altogether and in 153 of the cases residents lost money, totalling £600,629.
“154 of the 2019 reports were in West Sussex, 58 in East Sussex and 49 in Brighton and Hove.
“The average age of victims was 80 years, with the oldest being 97.”
PC Bernadette Lawrie, financial abuse safeguarding officer at Sussex Police, said: “We urge residents to remain vigilant and to report anything suspicious to us. It’s also important to remember to challenge any unknown callers for ID.
“Not sure? Don’t open the door!
“Never have work done by anyone who cold calls. No reputable trader ever approaches a customer in this way.
“If visitors are present and you feel at all unsafe, dial 999 at once. Otherwise report online or ring 101 quoting Operation Signature.”