DEVON County Council's (DCC) trading standards service is urging householders, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, to be on their guard for rogue traders who might try to take advantage of the damage caused to property by Storm Ciaran.

Last Wednesday night and throughout Thursday Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay was hit by rain and high winds of up to 75mph.

Fencing, trees, sheds, roof tiles, guttering and garden equipment are the kinds of things that can be damaged by high winds.

Now Heart of the South West Trading Standards is urging householders to always reject offers of goods and services from cold callers, which could include people claiming to be tree surgeons or roofers, and other tradespeople who call or knock on the door uninvited or even call out of the blue.

There is concern that desperate householders may drop their guard and be duped by unscrupulous traders who will try to convince them there is a problem when there isn’t or that they can fix damage quickly and at a more competitive rate.

Alex Fry, Operations Manager for Heart of the South West Trading Standards said: 'Unfortunately it’s a fact that rogue traders always try to take advantage when people are at their most vulnerable – we saw it in the storms last year and during Covid. They will try to take advantage of emergencies, disasters and extreme weather events to make as much money as they can.

'They target the vulnerable and elderly. They might knock on your door and say a branch is damaged or a tile is loose and is dangerous – ignore them.

'If someone on the doorstep, or through an unsolicited telephone call, tells you that your property needs repairs or maintenance of any kind, be suspicious.

'If you need work done use a trusted source or visit a website like Buy With Confidence to find a reputable trader and try to get at least three quotes for work.'

► Trading Standards’ advice

  • If damage is weather-related, speak to your insurance company first before agreeing to have work done. The company is likely to have a list of approved traders and may well want to instruct them to undertake any necessary repairs.
  • Do not agree to have work done by anyone who cold calls.
  • Ask friends and family for recommendations.
  • Try to get at least three quotes for work.
  • Make sure you know the trader’s name and address. If things go wrong, it is usually easier to arrange a repair or refund with a local trader.

► Residents can report rogue traders or get advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133.