AN ELDERLY Chester couple still have their life savings thanks to a quick-thinking bank clerk and Trading Standards officers.
The couple, both in their 70s, were being asked to pay £7,000 for repair work to slates on the roof of their small terraced home in Hoole, for which they had been quoted £15.
But the 'charming man' who arrived on their doorstep claiming he was doing work in the area began to spot other 'faults' with their house.
When the final bill arrived, the couple were confronted with demands for £7,000 'in cash'.
They were told that the money was needed the next day to pay the men and it was suggested they take out a bank loan to do it.
Fortunately, when the couple turned up at Chester's HSBC bank a cashier became so concerned at their story he called in Cheshire County Council's Trading Standards officers.
'Thanks to his quick-thinking we were able to persuade the pensioners to leave their money in the bank while members of our investigations team went to their house with police to question the 'builders',' said Cheshire Trading Standards chief Paul McGreary.
'The result of that visit is that two men have been arrested on suspicion of attempting to obtain money by deception and have been bailed while inquiries continue.'
Trading Standards officers estimate that about £1,000 worth of work had been carried out to a fascia board and the bay window roof of the couple's Chester home. The original faulty roof slates had not been touched.
Mr McGreary said: 'One very important facet of this case is that the elderly couple were not given details of cancellation rights, which is now a legal requirement.
'Although they had already parted with £500 as a deposit, the story has a happy ending in that they have not lost their savings. It could easily have been so different.
'We would strongly advise all members of the public not to enter into agreements for building work, house repairs, gardening or anything else with people who 'cold-call'.'
Cheshire Trading Standards will soon be launching a CD training package to be made available to all banks and building societies in the county which will provide guidance for all employees concerned about the circumstances of similar cash transactions.
HSBC spokeswoman Sabina Paton said the bank was 'very proud' of the vital role the Chester cashier had played in ensuring the elderly couple did not lose their savings.
She said: 'Customers are our number one priority and staff at our branches are trained to watch over them as part of their involvement in the community. It is our pleasure to be able to help any customer, particularly those who may be more vulnerable than others.'
Anyone who thinks they have been a victim of this type of incident should call Detective Sergeant Tim Pengelly on 01244 613184.
A Cheshire police spokesman said: 'A 48-year-old man and a 53-year-old man, both from Connah's Quay, have been arrested on suspicion of obtaining money by deception. They have been interviewed and been released on police bail and are due to return on August 22.'