Four suspected rogue traders have been arrested after more than £30,000 was stolen from ‘elderly and vulnerable’ people across South Wales.
Police said the men were arrested as part of Operation Otter, which was set up after a series of rogue builder frauds.
Acting Sergeant Karen McNeil, who is based at Cardiff Bay police station, said her team is investigating four cases in Cardiff and one in Bridgend.
Victims, who officers said were left “extremely humiliated”, were targeted by gangs who claimed they needed work done on their houses.
After taking on average £6,500 per victim, the rogue builders then either did not do the work or did it to such a poor standard it needed to be done again.
Sgt McNeil and her team believe the five cases are linked because of similarities in the nature of work carried out, in leaflets handed to the victims and in descriptions of the vehicles and suspects involved.
She said: “All of the victims without exception are extremely traumatised by the whole thing.
“The victims appear to be either elderly or vulnerable and the method employed tends to involve cold-calling their address.
“They then tend to tell them that work needs to be undertaken on their house. That is often work that can’t be done easily by the person themselves – so things like guttering, facias, roof tiles, things that are generally out of reach and difficult for them to manage on their own.”
She said the rogue traders then agree on a price that is paid up-front but spirals higher and higher as the work progresses.
Urging anyone who is approached by traders offering to do work on their house to call trading standards to check their credentials, Sgt McNeil added: “Substantial amounts of money are being taken from some of our most vulnerable members of society.
“The victims are left feeling extremely humiliated and very vulnerable because in their minds these individuals know who they are.
“These are extremely cruel offences which South Wales Police takes seriously.
“We would urge neighbours, family and friends of elderly or vulnerable people to keep an eye on them, especially if they appear to be having work done on their house.
* Four men, aged 59, 51, 33, and 20, were arrested in synchronised dawn raids this week in Cardiff Bay, Tremorfa, Riverside, Adamsdown, and Penylan on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering. Around £5,000 was seized, along with leaflets, mobile phones and laptops, which will now be forensically examined.