ROGUE traders have conducted intricate research to execute their offences by trawling streets and even staking out church services to spot potential victims.
Investigations conducted by trading standards officers in Yorkshire have revealed the chilling lengths that criminal gangs are willing to go to in their bid to exploit the elderly.
Evidence has emerged of offenders checking obituary notices in newspapers to then approach the recently bereaved partners of the deceased to prey on them when they are at their most vulnerable.
There have been cases of rogue traders staking out churches, post offices and cafés and then following residents back to their homes to pinpoint victims who can be targeted.
National research has shown that an 82-year-old single woman fits the profile as the most likely victim of rogue traders. The offenders often cultivate an increasingly close relationship with their victims, to such an extent that some consider the conmen to be friends or even surrogate sons and daughters.
But the true nature of the criminals is often only discovered following complex and costly inquiries by trading standards officials and police officers.
Offenders are repeatedly linked to other criminal activity, including drug dealing and metal theft, and knowledge is often passed on to younger generations. Trading standards officials have confirmed that they have traced offenders as young as 10 who are involved in the criminal operations.
But efforts are underway to try and tackle the crime syndicates and raise awareness among potential victims.
Trading standards officers have used historic images from Google’s Street View to establish if any work has actually been carried out on properties, while hundreds of “no cold calling” zones have been established across Yorkshire to ward off offenders.
The Yorkshire Post revealed in 2010 that computers were being employed by trading standards officers to map the movements of rogue traders. The tactics used by known offenders have also been analysed so that trading standards officers can approach potential victims to warn them not to succumb to the high-pressure selling of rogue traders.