CONSUMER watchdogs in West Yorkshire have welcomed a crackdown on doorstep callers.
The county's Trading Standards Service welcomed the publication of a report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on doorstep selling and underlying problem of doorstep crime.
It is an issue which affects many vulnerable people in West Yorkshire.
The report follows a year-long investigation by the Government watchdog into doorstep conmen and their sharp trading practices.
It highlights shortfalls in the law in place to protect consumers from the tactics employed by many salespeople.
It recommends changes in the law and announces that it is to run a national consumer education campaign, with organisations such as Trading Standards, to provide consumers with information on their rights when buying via doorstep selling, to encourage the benefits of shopping around and to inform them about the psychological techniques used by some salespeople.
Martin Wood, West Yorkshire's Chief Trading Standards Officer said: "Last year we received nearly 400 complaints related to doorstep selling, ranging from excessive prices, shoddy workmanship and in some cases intimidation tactics.
"Our Rapid Response Team has been despatched in more than 130 of those cases, enabling us to save thousands of pounds for consumers faced with predatory salespeople.
"Unfortunately the instances of doorstep crime are on the increase and it is a sad fact that the majority of victims are the most vulnerable members of the community."
Lysa Ralph, national senior safety manager at Help the Aged, said: "We know that bogus callers often target vulnerable older people and that older people are particularly likely to fall victim to this type of crime.
"Criminals are targeting older people across the country, charging outrageous prices for shoddy work or no work at all.
"A total ban on all doorstep selling for property repairs will be the only sure way to protect older people from rogue traders and distraction burglars.
"We know that this is a huge problem, which is massively under-reported."
PEOPLE are being warned not to fall for a new scam.
The warning came from West Yorkshire trading standards after a flurry of complaints.
Victims receive postcards saying they have an overseas parcel awaiting collection.
They are asked to phone the company which sent the cards to arrange delivery.
But the number is a premium rate line - with a message lasting seven minutes.
Callers are expected to stay on the line until they are given their unique reference number, without which they cannot arrange for their parcel to be delivered.
Clr Gerry Harper, chairman of West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said: "At £1.50 a minute, a call to this company would cost £10-plus, as customers supposedly need to identify their despatch reference number, which the company claims is necessary to arrange delivery.
"Our evidence suggests that the same batch number is printed on every card.
"I would urge everyone who has received such a postcard to think carefully about whether they are, in fact, waiting for a genuine overseas parcel delivery before ringing the number."
Anyone who has received a postcard, or who has, in fact, subsequently received a parcel, is asked to phone the West Yorkshire trading standards consumer helpline on 0113 3 848.