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Operation Signature Warning

Alert message sent 14/08/2019 11:14:00

Information sent on behalf of Sussex Police

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Police warning - rise in 'rogue trader' offences across Sussex

An elderly Chichester resident has been one of the latest victims of a spate of doorstep thefts including rogue traders, a crime which doubled across Sussex during July.

The 76-year-old man was approached during July by a visitor suggesting that work was needed on his house.

He left a 'flyer' leaflet offering tree and hedge trimming and any interior and exterior work, but with just a mobile number and email, and no landline number or actual address
The resident handed over a total of £45,000 for work which began but was never continued, and the man who started the work, and who said that a further £25,000 would be needed, cannot currently be contacted.

Police are investigating and anyone who has been approached for such work should contact the police online or by calling 101, quoting serial 0500 of 05/08.

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.

38 of the July reports were 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.

In another recent case, in Brighton, a 71-year-old resident was wanting to have her garden redone. She had a flyer through her door for a gardner or landscaper so called him for a quote. The man visited and quoted £2700 for her garden to be tidied and turf to be cleared. He said he would need at least £1700 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 never returned or contacted the victim.

In yet another case, in Hailsham, two men called saying they were there to unblock the drains. She had previously received letters from Southern Water explaining that drain work was to be completed at some stage so she assumed this was genuine. Both men said it would cost £130 to unblock the drains and she handed this over. They then returned asking for £200 for a camera to be put down the drain to check the issue and find out what work needed doing - again the victim paid. The men then asked for £300 for further repairs and equipment to start the work, which was handed over. They then left and never returned.

In yet another case, in Horsham, an 84-year-old man was approached by two men at his door asking if he wanted his gutters cleaned and trees cut back. They quoted him £460 and they agreed. The men then changed the price to £5850. They left the rubbish from their work and said they would come back tomorrow to clear it and get the money.

Meanwhile the unsuspecting resident went to his bank wanting to withdraw £6000 for this work. Thankfully bank staff found this suspicious and overpriced so contacted the police.
PC Bernadette Lawrie, BEM, 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."

For further advice see the Sussex Police Operation Signature website.


Help us keep Sussex safe

Seen something suspicious or have information about a crime or incident? Please contact us online, email us at or call 101.

Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111, or online at
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