ROGUE traders operating a doorstep scam in East Antrim, a reputable firm has claimed.
Driveway Restore has received reports that twice in the past week, Ballyclare householders who received genuine leaflets promoting the company’s services were subsequently visited on the doorstep by men claiming to be employed by Driveway Restore, offering to do the job straight away and asking for cash payment.
The firm, which is based at the Ledcom industrial estate in Larne and specialises in cleaning and protecting drives and other hard surfaces, fears that people will be taken in and pay over the odds for what it claims is sub-standard work.
Driveway Restore’s Cherylee Van Es said: “We are a legitimate business with a solid reputation built up over a number of years and we do not cold-call, so anyone who is confronted by anybody on their doorstep without having made an appointment can be certain they are not representatives of Driveway Restore.”
A recent incident in Ballyclare, however, demonstrated what Cherylee called “the cunning” of individuals seeking to cash in.
She explained: “Royal Mail did a leaflet drop for us a couple of weeks ago and last Monday a lady phoned to say she was interested in having her driveway cleaned and asking how much would it cost.
“It’s not possible to give estimates without seeing the driveway and we made an appointment for one of our representatives to call at the property on Friday, when we would measure up and give a quote with no obligation.
“But on the Wednesday before we were due to go out these men called at the woman’s door and said they would do the job on her driveway. When she told them she had phoned us and arranged for somebody to call with her, they told her ‘Aye, that’s us’.”
The bogus callers had produced a Driveway Restore leaflet and claimed their boss had instructed them to go out and do the job that day.
When the work was done the callers demanded £400 in cash. The householder became suspicious and telephoned Driveway Restore.
“She was quite distressed,” said Cherylee, “and while one of us phoned the police, we asked the lady to let us speak to the men at her door and when one of them spoke to us he said there had been a mistake and produced another leaflet to the householder, which was from another company altogether.”
She added: “When the police arrived the bogus callers told them if the customer wasn’t happy with the job they wouldn’t charge her. We’ve inspected the work and it is sub-standard and the charge was double what it would cost for a proper job.”
Driveway Restore said they encountered a similar situation, also in Ballyclare, at the weekend.
The company has now issued guidelines for householders when a caller knocks on their door.
“Reputable companies do not cold-call,” they said.
“By law there must be a cooling off period, so if the householder agrees to have work done the work must be carried out in advance in order for the householder to consider it properly, or without feeling pressured into having it done there and then.”
Cherylee said. “Anyone considering having work done should ask for a written quotation on letter headed paper,”
She also advised: “Ask for a company address and a land line number and phone to confirm they are who they say they are and ask to see a copy of the public liability insurance; any legitimate company or trader will have this. You should also ask for written references, or to see jobs they’ve done elsewhere.”
Cherylee said: “These rogue traders are now obtaining leaflets of Driveway Restore and other legitimate companies and leading people to believe they are that company. If in any doubt phone us on 028 28269590 or 0800 6952470 and it will be verified instantly if the caller is actually from Driveway Restore.”
Recent reports of people being pressured to pay cash also raises concerns. Recently, police reported that workmen drove a Larne pensioner to the bank to withdraw funds with which to pay them.
“No company will drive a customer to the hole in the wall or to a bank and will accept payment by cheque or credit/debit card,” said Cherylee, who warned that alarm bells should start ringing immediately if someone knocks on a door and says they have “stuff left over from another job”.