Guidance to avoid woodworm scam after elderly Angus couple conned out of £5k

Damage caused by woodworm.
Damage caused by woodworm.

A national trade body is urging people to be aware of the facts regarding woodworm after an elderly couple in Angus were scammed out of £5,000.

The move by the Property Care Association comes after bogus workmen convinced the couple they had discovered woodworm in their property.

The victims, from Montrose, were told by the bogus contractors in March that they had found woodworm while looking to repair their roof - but trading standards say the culprits had arrived at the house with a handful of maggots to trick the occupants into thinking they had an infestation.

Another call was made at an address in Westmuir this month. On that occasion, the bank intervened after becoming suspicious of their elderly customers’ request to withdraw £3000.

Steve Hodgson, chief executive of the PCA, said: “The incident has now raised concerns with Trading Standards, who fear criminals may be targeting households in the area after a similar call was made at an address in the same locality.

“This is a worrying chain of events.

“Our message is that anyone who receives a call like this should not engage with contractors making impromptu calls to their property.

“People should not be pressurised into having work done or buying goods.”

A spokesman from Angus Council said: “The first incident happened in March and there are concerns criminals may be targeting households in the area after a similar call was made at an address in Westmuir on Wednesday, April 6.

“On this occasion, the bank intervened after becoming suspicious of their elderly customers’ request to withdraw £3000.

“In the first incident, elderly householders answered their door to bogus workmen who claimed they had noticed loose slates on their roof.

“They convinced their way in and persuaded the couple that work was urgently needed.

“At one point they presented the couple with a handful of live maggots and passed them off as woodworm they had found in the wall cavities.

“The couple were convinced and, during the course of the so-called work, paid out £5000.

“Trading standards believe these con artists may be part of organised criminal groups operating across the UK, targeting older or more vulnerable consumers.”

Police Scotland is also investigating the two incidents in Angus.

According to the PCA, the tell-tale signs of an active wood worm infestation include the appearance of new emergence holes and the dust – known as frass - which falls from them, but careful investigation by specialists is needed to be certain a property is affected.

Mr Hodgson added: “If householders think they may have a wood worm problem, it is important that it is correctly identified, and then treated accordingly.

“Such works should be highly targeted and carried out by experts.

“If in doubt, contact a member of the PCA, to deal with the problem.”

The PCA is an approved scheme operator for TrustMark, the scheme supported by government to help property owners find reliable and trustworthy tradespeople to make home improvements.

More details on insect infestation, including treatment measures can be found at: www.property-care.org/Homeowners.Timber_Treatment.Insects.asp