A Derry family who have become a target for heartless fraudsters have been left completely terrified after a series of incidents at their Pennyburn home in recent weeks.
The family, who include a disabled elderly man and his sisters - one of whom suffers from dementia - have been intimidated into handing over substantial amounts of money for goods brought to their house by an unidentified man. The man is thought to have visited other homes in the area and community workers have issued a warning to residents to be “extra vigilant” until those involved are caught.
Martin Connolly of Community Restorative Justice said the issue had been brought to their attention when a carer discovered an unusual amount of goods in the kitchen of the disabled man’s home.
The goods are said to be of extremely low quality despite the fact that hundreds of pounds have changed hands.
Mr. Connolly said: “This was first brought to our attention around Christmas when we heard of one guy calling at a number of homes belonging to elderly and vulnerable people in the Pennyburn area offering them goods which are essentially worthless.
“In one case a camera which is probably worth around £5 was sold for £180 because the people in question just wanted to get rid of this man from their home. They family we’re now dealing with, who are particularly vulnerable, have been extremely pressurised and intimidated by the whole experience. This man has used all sorts of tactics to convince these people to hand over their money, and he seems to know exactly who to target.”
In what he described as a more sinister development, Mr Connolly said the culprit had tried to get bank account details from some of the people involved in the past number of days. He also said the man is not thought to be operating on his own.
“This is very, very scary for these people and we’re now doing what we can to try and help them,” he said.
“We’re in the process of installing security cameras and buzzer and intercom systems now because it’s vital that this person is caught before anyone else is targeted and something worse happens. In the latest incident one of the guys came straight into the hall of the home of this vulnerable family and said he wasn’t leaving until he got £200. What we want to do is warn people in this area and in other areas throughout the city to be very very careful about answering their doors or buying anything from people who are clearly not reputable sales people.
“If people are targeted in this way they can contact a number of agencies including ourselves or their local community group or the police, who have been informed of this recent worrying incident.”
Sinn Fein Councillor Tony Hassan who has been made aware of the family targeted in his area, said those who were preying on elderly and vulnerable people needed to be aprehended straight away.
He said: “These people are beneath contempt. They have no place within our communities.
“I would urge everyone be vigilant and to check the identification of any unknown callers and to contact the agency or business the callers may claim to be from before allowing anyone unknown into their homes or to carry out work. The same goes if people are being offered goods on the doorstep for sale at a price that sounds too good to be true.
“If people are answering the door later at night they should secure the door with a chain before opening the door and if they feel uneasy about an incident they should call a neighbour, family friend or the police,” he said.