Warning over Camden dodgy antiques dealers

DODGY antique dealers who try to trick often vulnerable victims into selling precious heirlooms are targeting Hampstead and Belsize Park.

The crooks, known as ‘knocker boys’, cold call their victims and persuade them to let them into their homes so they can check out valuable items.

They then convince their unwitting customers to sell on their goods for a fraction of their actual value.

Brighton has been blighted by this practice for decades and in 2006 an aristocrat who lived in the seaside town, the Earl of Lauderdale, was conned out of possessions worth �680,000. Now the con artists appear to have moved on to north London.

Residents in the Frognal and Fitzjohns ward in Hampstead have been receiving hand-delivered personally addressed letters to their homes.

The senders of the notes are offering to visit their properties to look at antiques, paintings and books with the view to buying unwanted items for cash.

But Frognal and Fitzjohns Safer Neighbourhood Team has warned homeowners that these letters are likely to be a scam.

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In an email sent out to residents, the local SNT officers warned: “This is known to be used as a ploy to distract your attention, gain entry to your home and steal from within.

“Another scenario is that they may view your cherished antiques and come back in the future as burglars. Whilst we don’t mean to alarm, some of these companies are genuine but some are not.”

In the case that residents do decide to take up the offer made in the letters, the SNT police advised them to have someone with them during any appointment and not to leave their visitor alone in their home at any time.

It is also suspected that ‘knocker boys’ could be working in Belsize Park.

Sgt Ian Gilks, from Belsize SNT, said that he had been tipped off about the swindle by officers from Hampstead.

He said: “If you have any concerns which Belsize SNT may be able to help with please don’t hesitate to contact us,” he said.

PC Martin Betts, from Frognal and Fitzjohns SNT, said: “This happens in all the wealthy areas of London. The vulnerable and elderly are targeted.

“In this area we’ve managed to get in before they carry out their crimes. The companies who are operating are very well known to police.

“If any elderly people are approached they should contact their local SNT or the police and we’ll do some checks for them.”

To contact the police, ring 0300-123 1212 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.