Rogue door-to-door fish sellers scammed an elderly couple into parting with more than £200.
The pair ended up with so much fish that they had to go out and buy a new freezer to store it all.
Marion and Alan Johnson, aged 85 and 88, say they feel “dumb” after they were tricked into buying almost 10 times what they asked for.
The couple, of Ashton, Preston, also had to pay £104 for a second freezer to store the 30 packets of fish.
Marion said: “We had just been to the doctor’s and I wasn’t very well. When the men called, we just wanted £24 worth of fish and I asked him to put it in the kitchen as I sat in the living room. I paid on card but when they left and we walked in the kitchen I’d never seen as much fish in my life. I checked the receipt and we’d been scammed, paying £204. The fish wasn’t even labelled so we didn’t know what type it was.
“We didn’t have anywhere to store it so we had to go out and buy another freezer to store it. We ate some of it but then saw on Facebook people were saying it wasn’t safe to eat. There’s now just have loads of fish we don’t know what to do with and we feel really dumb because we fell for it.”
And according to Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards this is a persistent problem in the city with lots of residents being scammed into either buying more fish than they want or paying over the odds for it.
In a statement it said: “Over the last two weeks, Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards Service has dealt with 14 complaints about mobile fish sellers supplying pre-packed fish throughout Chorley, Leyland, Lancaster and Preston. Several different sellers are involved, and amounts paid for fish vary from £8 for a tray to over £400 for seven trays, with prices often increasing for older residents.
“On several occasions the packers’ labels have been removed before sale, so consumers do not know species or use-by dates. Complaints include goods being misdescribed, short-weight sales, high pressure sales, and overcharging.
“The sellers questioned so far are from the North East. They often stay locally overnight until the van’s contents are sold, even if the vans are unrefrigerated. Hence the purchaser has no way of knowing how the fish has been stored or whether it is safe to eat, and a lack of cancellation rights or a receipt makes it difficult to sort out any problems afterwards.”
Paul Noone, head of Trading Standards for Lancashire County Council, said: “The best place to buy fish is from a local fishmonger at an established shop or stall or from a regular local roundsman. You are taking a risk by buying on the doorstep from an unknown trader as this fish may be of poor quality, misdescribed, or overcharged.
“We are currently investigating cheap fish sold as sea bass, farmed salmon sold as wild, short-weight sales, and Preston cases where a vulnerable lady paid £404 for seven packs of fish, and a retired couple paid £360 for a bag of unlabelled fish. Residents have been misled into thinking they are buying a few pounds’ worth of fish for dinner, then feel pressurised into paying an enormous bill and accepting more fish than their freezers can take. We would advise residents never to deal with unknown cold-callers on their doorstep.
“If residents have paid more than agreed by credit or debit card, they should notify their bank of the fraud. If the fish is mis-sold or unwanted, and the seller or packer is known, they should send an immediate letter of cancellation requesting that the trader collects the frozen fish and provides a refund.
“Each year Lancashire County Council’s Trading Standards Service deals with around 600 complaints about bogus callers from elderly and vulnerable residents. Consumers are warned not to deal with any uninvited salespeople. Anyone with concerns about doorstep callers in their area should call Citizen’s Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.”
A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We would always advise anyone who has any concerns about door-to-door sellers to not hand over any money or let them into your home.”