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Detectives have urged residents in south Essex to beware of fraudsters after an elderly couple were tricked out of £540 for garden fence repairs.
Two men called at the couple’s home in Rayleigh Road, Benfleet and offered to replace fence panels blown down in recent high winds. They asked for £540 cash in advance then loaded the damaged panels on to their tipper truck and drove off. They did not return.
The incident happened at about 3.30pm on January 3 but was not reported to police until January 9 while the couple, both aged in their 80s, waited in vain for new fence panels to arrive and be fitted as promised.
The victim, who has asked that his name is withheld, said that the two men called at his home and said they had noticed that several fence panels and the garden shed had been damaged by high winds.
“They were both quite pleasant but I didn’t really want to deal with them because we usually use a local fence repairer. When they said they knew the local man and worked for him I felt sure that they were genuine.
“One of them started on the work to remove the broken fence parts while an older man came indoors and started filling in paperwork for the new parts. He kept on saying how well he knew the local fencing man.
“He then gave me a price and asked for £540 to cover the cost of materials. I was a little suspicious at that point because the local man always takes payment when the work is finished. But since they claimed to work for the local man I gave them the cash.
“We realised it was a trick when after six days I checked with the local man who said that he did not know the men at all. That’s when we went to police. We are really upset at losing all that money and hope that other people won’t get caught in the same way by these people.”
Investigating officer, Dc Karen Miller, said: “This was a despicable trick by fraudsters who took advantage of a trusting elderly couple who thought they would be getting their broken fences fixed quickly.
“We now want to warn other people about these thieves and also talk to any witnesses or anyone who knows who they are.”
One of the men was described as being white, aged in his 50s and was wearing a dark green jumper with a pattern on the chest. The only description of the second man was that he was thought to be in his 20s and had dyed red hair.
Anyone with information should contact Dc Miller at Southend CID on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.