In the popular consciousness, the use of the term ‘rogue trader’ tends to shift over time. While the generally accepted, ‘official’ definition is “an employee of a financial institution who carries out business without the knowledge or approval of his or her bosses,” this explanation only reached the heights of social discourse in 1995 when the actions of one trader bankrupted Barings Bank. Its use rose again during the 2008 global financial crisis, when the world needed a label for those responsible. This definition still stands, of course, but the term ‘rogue trader’ includes a different type of criminal today.
Outside of widespread banking collapses, the term ‘rogue trader’ is commonly used to refer to independent tradespeople who prey on the confidence of customers; tradespeople who overcharge for poor quality goods or services. This can include:
- Failure to complete work
- Completing work to an obviously poor or dangerous standard
- Charging additional money to fix damage caused
- Artificially inflating the originally quoted price
Rogue trader tactics often incorporate levels of intimidation in order to obtain money from a target. Some cases involve perpetrators damaging a property first in order to quote to fix it. The Coronavirus pandemic has seen an uptick in cases of vulnerable people being targeted by rogue traders because the circumstances of repeated lockdowns have left many in isolated situations for extended periods of time. A widely reported spate of incidents from 2020 included doorstep traders “offering an anti-bacterial spray for private and commercial driveways,” for example. Indeed, with legitimate property work not having been possible for some time, it can be particularly easy to convince vulnerable people that repairs are now needed – especially when the traders link that proposed work to the risks surrounding Covid-19.
The problem with rogue trader incidents is that they are both difficult to prove, and difficult to refer to the police for investigation. This is because they hinge on the target consenting to the exchange – even if that is the result of intimidation or dishonesty. Unless actual violence or forced entry is used, these types of cases are more likely to be handled as fraud and, more often than not, the perpetrators are difficult to trace once they have left the area.
This type of fraud can be even more challenging to investigate than the online and telephone scams that have also increased during the Coronavirus pandemic. Those cases of fraud can often eventually be traced through digital footprints and internet access, whereas a small group of individuals with fake credentials and a non-descript vehicle can cover their tracks much more easily. Unless CCTV is in operation on a property and manages to capture usable images, these rogue traders can leave little actionable evidence behind after they have absconded with their target’s hard-earned money.
The rogue trader issue is not simply about the fraud that results in an initial financial loss for the target, however. The aftermath can be just as costly, because a rogue trader tactic is to either complete work to a poor standard, or cause damage before leaving. This means that as well as paying the rogue trader themselves, the target will then need to pay legitimate tradespeople to rectify the work undertaken by the rogue trader. Moreover, rogue traders will be uninsured – further reducing the avenues of recourse available to the target once the fraud has been realised.
Protecting against rogue traders
While the incidence of rogue traders has steadily increased over the course of the current public health crisis, there are steps that can help protect against the possibility of becoming a target. These are steps that can be taken by people who are particularly vulnerable as well as those who are not. These steps are certainly worth sharing with those looking out for vulnerable friends, relatives and neighbours.
- Do not buy goods or services on your doorstep
If a tradesperson has cold-called – by knocking on your door without invitation – then you should not buy their goods or services. These are speculative sales calls and tend to relate to offers of glazing, conservatories, driveways, tree-trimming, garden work, or solar panels. If you do in fact need any of these things, you should be doing your own search for a reputable provider. If a person has knocked on your door unexpectedly to offer you any of these things, it is because their business is unlikely to appear in your search for a reputable provider, and using that tradesperson leaves you vulnerable to fraud. This rule of thumb also applies to promotional leaflets dropped through your letterbox.
- Do not allow strangers or door-to-door salespeople into your home or business
If a person unfamiliar to you knocks on your door claiming to be a tradesperson or supplier of a service, and it is not an appointment that you have arranged, do not allow that person into your home. This is how distraction burglaries often happen. It is also how rogue traders can spot further opportunities to exaggerate home improvement issues to take more of your money. If the person is there for an arranged appointment, on official business, they will be able to provide you with identification and the necessary information to confirm their purpose.
- Do your research
If you have genuine need of goods or a service, then you should do your research to find a reputable supplier, business, or tradesperson. Look for genuine recommendations and reviews, and compare details with other suppliers in the same industry to ensure that their fees are reasonable and of a standard rate. If a person has contacted you to tell you that there is something wrong with your property, or that remedial work is needed to prevent catastrophic circumstances, then you should cease contact with them and seek a second, professional opinion to resolve your concerns.
Using Private Investigators to deal with rogue traders
If you have fallen foul of a rogue trader or have increasing concerns that a person with whom you are dealing is actually a rogue trader, then a Private Investigation firm can help you. Using cutting edge technology, strategies and methods, Private Investigation operatives can use expertise in comprehensive background checks, person tracing and surveillance to gather documentary evidence that is admissible in court.
- Surveillance – Using static surveillance, a Private Investigation team can monitor a tradesperson working on your property. In doing so, they can document hours worked and, where possible, the activities undertaken by that tradesperson at your address. Using mobile surveillance, Private Investigators can monitor the activities of suspected rogue traders as they target other local properties. Electronic surveillance can be deployed where contact email or telephone contact with a rogue trader is happening. This can be used to gather evidence of intimidation or other attempts at extortion.
- Background checks – If you suspect that someone you are dealing with is a rogue trader, a Private Investigator can conduct a comprehensive background check – gathering vital, actionable information using only legal and ethical methods. When conducting background checks, only records and information that is publicly available is used, including property records and address history, criminal records, driving records, financial records, registered business information and confirmation of identity.
- Person tracing – If a rogue trader has caused damage, extorted money, and disappeared, a Private Investigator can use legal and ethical person tracing techniques to track them down. This includes the use of public databases and the identification and examination of the person’s digital trail. Various surveillance techniques can be used as part of the person tracing process to confirm the identity of the person in question, and to collate actionable, court admissible evidence.
Beware the rogue Private Investigators
The Private Investigation industry remains unregulated, so it is rife with Private Investigation firms which actually fit the rogue trader profile themselves. These Investigators operate for the sole purpose of scamming money from people who need real assistance and, as such, they regularly fail to provide competent service. Since most cases that result in the engagement of Private Investigation services are of a private and personal nature, or relate to a commercially sensitive situation, the use of unprofessional, uninsured Private Investigators can be very damaging.
You can protect yourself against rogue Private Investigators in the same way as all other rogue traders – by doing your research. Seek personal recommendations and read both positive and negative reviews. Most importantly, look for accreditations. Reputable, professional Private Investigators, like OpSec Solutions, will hold accreditations from the Association of British Investigators, the U.K Private Investigation Network, and the Institute of Professional Investigators, among other professional bodies. In addition, those Private Investigation firms that adhere to strict rules and regulations around data protection will hold a registration with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
OpSec Solutions is a team of highly experienced investigative personnel, drawn from police, military and corporate backgrounds. With offices around the U.K, this Private Investigation firm boasts an impressive track record of handling cases with the utmost discretion while delivering comprehensive and actionable results. Contact OpSec Solutions today to discuss your rogue trader issues and concerns.