Bank criticised over conmen incident

A PENSIONER has today criticised bank staff for failing to act as two conmen waited outside an Ipswich bank for him to hand over cash.The 85-year-old was duped into paying hundreds of pounds for work on a tree at his Sproughton home and was driven to Ipswich's Co-operative Bank where the workmen waited for the money.

A PENSIONER has today criticised bank staff for failing to act as two conmen waited outside an Ipswich bank for him to hand over cash.

The 85-year-old was duped into paying hundreds of pounds for work on a tree at his Sproughton home and was driven to Ipswich's Co-operative Bank where the workmen waited for the money.

But despite informing the cashier what was going on hoping they might tell the police, the teller still handed over the money, advising the man to contact trading standards.

Now the pensioner, who does not wish to be named, has written to the branch asking them to look into security issues because he does not believe any procedures are in place for such incidents.

He said: “The young man at the till asked me in what form I wanted the cash and I said I didn't care because I was being forced to hand it over by two unsavoury characters outside.

“He stopped what he was doing and, showing concern, suggested I get in touch with trading standards.

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“He then handed the money to me. I am nearly 86 and I was extremely frightened and confused and unable to think and my bank seemed unable to intervene.”

The victim ended up paying the men £650 for less than an hour's work removing boughs from a tree in his garden.

He said the scam had unfolded when he was approached by a man as he walked home last Tuesday afternoon .

The man persuaded the pensioner that he knew him, having worked on a property down the road some time ago, and the 85-year-old invited him back to his home.

The workman then made a phone call a second man arrived, who the pensioner described as “looking like a boxer”.

He added: “He said he had been a weight lifter and he put his fists up in front of my face. I didn't think much of that at the time because it was quite playful.”

The man then offered to cut more from the tree and the pensioner asked for a price.

However, the men said because they hadn't agreed exactly what needed doing they couldn't give one, and they set to work.

When they finished they asked for £650 and drove the elderly man to the bank where he withdrew the money and paid them.

He was given a receipt but the phone number and address on the invoice were false.

Police were contacted and visited the man at his home. Trading Standards are now looking into the incident.

A spokeswoman for the force said people were reminded to authorise the identity of all callers at their home and check company details.

She said people should ask for a quote before agreeing to work and should contact police if they believed they have been the victim of a bogus caller.

Do you think the bank should have intervened? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail: eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Weblink: www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/suffolk

TRADING standards officers have today reminded people to exercise caution when dealing with doorstep callers.

Tony Doorley, doorstep co-ordinator for Suffolk trading standards, said people should be on their guard when dealing with unannounced callers, both at their door and in the street.

He said: “If you are thinking of having work done, don't make a snap decision no matter how inviting the initial offer can be.

“Always get quotes from established traders.

“Meeting someone like this in the street is quite typical and they can persuade you to have the work done and then the price goes up and up.

“They can be intimidating and insist on getting their money.”

Mr Doorley said he would be speaking to the bank involved and would give them advice on procedures.

He said in cases similar to the pensioner's staff should not hand over cash and should keep the customer in the store and call trading standards or the police.

He added: “There may have been a criminal offence in this case if the workmen did not inform the man that he had seven days to cancel the contract.

“If they were uninvited visitors their contract may be unenforceable and they would have had great difficulty in getting the money.”