Farmers are being warned to be cautious of rogue traders offering to resurface roads at rock-bottom prices.
The NFU is warning that “travellers are doing the rounds with plausible stories” to repair roads. It comes after at least two farmers were targeted in East Sussex.
The itinerant workers approach farmers saying they have been resurfacing roads in the area and have leftover tar.
“All very friendly to start with, but this moves to more menacing behaviour when it comes to payment time,” said an NFU spokesman.
One farmer told Farmers Weekly a well-spoken worker wearing a yellow cap with the words “Hot Tar Services” written on it, approached him in a car offering to tarmac holes on paths around his farm.
The worker was driving a vehicle with the registration plate “KZ05 EHW” and told him his business was based in the Heathrow area.
“He said they were offering tarmac services and they normally charged £17.35/sq ft. But just to get rid of the tar, they would do the job for £3/sq ft,” said the farmer.
“They turned up a bit later with a tank and grit behind it. I said: ‘How much will it cost?’ They replied: ‘It depends how far the tar goes’.”
The rogue workers completed about 30ft of work before the farmer asked them to stop.
The farmer said he wanted to pay by cheque, but was told they did not have a bank account.
‘Intimidated and threatened’
The men then demanded £2,000 in cash and said they would not leave until they received the money.
The farmer felt intimidated and threatened and paid the £2,000 “just to get them away”.
He was handed a handwritten invoice with a mobile phone number written on it.
He described the work as a “complete mess” and has to drive down the road every day, which reminds him of his mistake.
“I felt gutted and a complete idiot for falling for it,” he added. “It’s a warning that needs to go out to every farmer.
“I’m sure they go around all the country and target farmers all over the place.”
The farmer said he did not call the police because the workers had not committed a crime. However he contacted trading standards to warn others.
A spokesman for East Sussex County Council’s trading standards team said: “We would strongly urge farmers, other rural business owners and residents not to allow themselves to be pressured into agreeing to work on the doorstep.
“Instead they should take the time to find a reputable trader, which will allow them the protection offered by consumer law, including a cooling-off period following any contract being agreed.”
Anyone who believes they have been scammed should call the national Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0345 4040 506.