A conman who tricked a pensioner into spending money on a worthless product to cut her heating bills has been sentenced to 3 months imprisonment. Adrian Hillman, a former director of Eco Shield UK Ltd, cold-called his elderly victim in November 2015 and offered her a product, he said would drastically cut her heating bills, and help her save money.

The victim agreed to pay the £2,000 to the conman after he visited her in her home and convinced her this worthless product would be a worthwhile purchase. However, when the job was complete, the elderly victim was horrified to discover rendering had been cracked, paint had been sprayed all over her roof, windows and door frames. It had even been sprayed on her neighbour’s car. Following an investigation by trading standards, they discovered that the product Hillman had used, was in fact ordinary paint and not the insulation he had promised.

An inspector confirmed that the product he had used served no purpose, and would not of been capable of insulating anything, and certainly not have reduced heating bills or cured the damp problem. Eco Shield UK LTD and Adrian Hillman plead guilty in court to engaging in misleading commercial practices and to making misleading omissions in a sales presentation. Hillman was sentenced to three months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, he must also carry out 120 hours community service and pay compensation of £3,320 and court costs of £6,500.

How to deal with a rogue trader.

 The Federation of Master Buildings declared that around £1.5 billion worth of work is undertaken by dodgy builders every year, with consumers who pay builders in cash losing the equivalent of £712,000 a day in botched work, which then must be repaired. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) say that they’re inundated with around 10,000 complaints each year about rogue traders.

There are certain red flags that might indicate that the builder you’re talking to isn’t totally trustworthy. If you suspect that their way of working is different to that of a genuine business, then chances are that they’re not 100% legitimate. Here are some warning signs to be aware of:

  • Ask to be paid upfront – a reliable builder should only be paid once they’ve completed the job, or have done a reasonable amount of work to the agreed standard
  • Ask to be paid in cash – if a builder only accepts cash-in-hand payments, then they might be acting dishonestly by avoiding VAT
  • Unwilling to give you an exact timeframe or written estimate – this indicates that they’re not planning to stick to the time agreed or decided fees
  • Offer an unusually low quote – this could show their inexperience at being able to give accurate figures. Remember: if things are too good – or cheap – to be true, they probably are. Instead, find three separate quotes from different tradesman and compare
  • Unable or unwilling to provide references – if they’re unable to show good recommendations, then they’re probably not worth hiring
  • Eager to start work right away – dodgy builders often quickly complete lots of work in one area before moving on to somewhere else completely new, leaving unfinished or poor standards of work behind

If you fall victim to the foul practices of a rogue trader, firstly, you should contact the police. They have technically committed fraud, so you should report them to the authorities. You should also report them to Trading Standards, they may be able to help negotiate a settlement, or give you guidance on how to deal with the problem. You can also take them to the small claims court, if they refuse to refund you your money.

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