Victim of damp proofing scam speaks out

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A pensioner has told how she fell victim to a damp proofing scam worth up to £1 million which targeted vulnerable people across the country.

Christopher Baird, Dominic O'Carroll, Paul Hilton, Kevin Christian, Jane Clark and Melvyn Hayden were involved in selling unnecessary and sub-standard damp proofing and building work.

The six appeared at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty.

Consumer Direct on damp proofing scam

Consumer Direct has on file 220 complaints relating to the damp proofing scam where elderly people were charged thousands of pounds for unnecessary work.

One victim, a 79-year-old woman, was targeted by Hilton and O'Carroll in April 2008.

The woman, who wishes to be known as Mrs W, said: "A card came through the door advertising damp proofing, then a man came and said it was free. I thought I had nothing to lose.

"He put this device on the wall, a bit bigger than a mobile phone, and it kept screeching.

"He started in the living room at the back of the television, but I thought there was no damp there. He went into the front room and then the bedrooms saying it was quite bad."

The pensioner was initially told any damp proofing work would be free, but was then quoted a four-figure sum.

"He stated a silly price of £1,700 for the work and I got it down to £999," said Mrs W.

She paid for the work in cash but thought it strange when the man and youth said they would come back in three months to see if their damp proofing had "taken."

They visited her again just three weeks later, but left after she told them she was about to go out shopping with her daughter.

Plaster not removed when damp proofing was done

Mrs W's granddaughter –who had recently had her house in Derby damp proofed – visited soon after and saw that the plaster had not been removed while the damp-proofing work was carried out.

Mrs W's granddaughter contacted Nottinghamshire County Council Trading Standards.

Between 2005 and 2008 Hilton ran East Midlands Building Services (EMBS), Hilton Construction Remedial and Remedial Construction Services Ltd which were involved in the scam. Christian ran EMBS alongside Hilton, before starting up North Nottingham Building Contractors Ltd, which was also involved.

Nottingham Trading Standards led the final two years of the five- year investigation into the firms.

They believe up to £1 million could have been earned through the scam, which included at least one case of throwing water at a wall and claiming it needed damp-proofing.

About 80 of the 220 recorded cases were in Nottingham and some victims were targeted repeatedly.

The six will give their mitigation and be sentenced at a later date.

Avoid potential damp proofing scams

Do not let yourself fall victim to potential damp proofing scams. Check out our essential guide to selecting a damp and timber company.

Alternatively, for more information and help towards damp proofing, check out our damp proofing web page.