BY TOBY PORTER
Fraudsters are trying to swipe cash from residents by claiming their homes are about to be flooded with poo.
A pensioner has warned that con men are preying on vulnerable residents by telling them to put down a “returnable” deposit to get urgent sewer work done to stop a “tsunami” of raw sewage hitting their homes.
William Hawes, from Abbey Wood, was targeted by a string of more than seven phone calls allegedly from Greenwich council and his landlord, a housing association.
A series of callers claimed the nearby sewage system was on the verge of being flooded and emergency work would need to be done to stop it coming into his house.
He was eventually warned a huge amount of safety measures would need to be constructed – and he would have to pay a “refundable” deposit while the machinery was on his property.
“They said it would of course be refunded when the work was completed – but they wanted £2,500 from me,” he said. “I told them I am a pensioner living hand to mouth and I could not come up with that amount of money.
“Once they were off the phone I called my landlord and the town hall who told me the calls were a hoax.
“Thankfully, I had not handed over any money.
“On January 3, 2019 somebody claiming to represent Greenwich council rang on my land line to say that there was a problem with backed-up sewage in my area and that my landlord, a housing association, and Dyno-Rod would be contacting me shortly about arrangements to secure my downstairs area against an expected tsunami of raw sewage bursting up through the pipes when the blockage was released.
“A whole series of calls followed this in quick succession, purportedly from my landlord and Dyno-Rod, confirming the problem and asking me to lodge a deposit – fully refundable, of course – to cover the equipment that would be left temporarily in place during the crisis period.
“The callers wanted to know how I was going to pay the deposit but the actual amount involved was not mentioned until I refused to effectively offer blank – cheque access to my finances, at which point I was told that they wanted £2,500.
“They were unmoved by the fact that I am a pensioner living hand-to-mouth and that it would be impossible for me to raise that amount of money, particularly in the days following Christmas.
“I was already suspecting a scam, when I rang my landlord on my mobile phone and discovered that no such problem had been recorded for my premises.
A further call, this time to Greenwich council, confirmed that this was indeed a scam. “The people involved were very good actors – very convincing.
A little online research showed that they had probably picked my premises because my front garden needs a lot of attention and that marks me out as somebody struggling to cope with life generally – in other words easy meat.
“The whole set-up was done with a great sense of urgency. They said ‘don’t argue, don’t hold up this essential work, the sewage pressure is building even as we speak, and any further delay could see it burst through in an uncontrollable flood’.
“It was all total nonsense, of course.
“I have been caught out before so I was already wary. This rang alarm bells but I fear others may have been caught out.”