A vulnerable man was made to sign over the ownership of his house to conmen who then forced him to live in a caravan.

The shocking tale of how the Penzance man found himself living in a caravan was highlighted as an example of how cold callers and rogue traders have targeted people in Cornwall.

Trading standards officers from Cornwall Council used the case studies during a briefing to councillors.

The wider briefing was looking at the issue of safeguarding but the trading standards staff wanted to raise awareness of doorstep crime.

Gary Webster detailed several case studies including the incident involving a man identified as EB from Penzance.

He explained that EB lived alone after being widowed in 2014 and had no family. He was alcohol dependent, had a criminal record and was well known to police and social services.

Gary explained: “His neighbour was a victim of a rogue trader, they had some work done to the roof that didn’t need doing and was done to a poor standard.

“The rogue traders had been to EB and befriended him, they saw the state that he was in, nobody really cared for him as he was challenging and could be quite difficult.”

The conmen supplied EB with alcohol and tobacco as well as money for his electric and food.

At this time EB was visited by a social worker due to concerns about self-neglect, his neighbours had tried to help but had found it difficult to engage with him. It was found that he had no electric and no running water at the house.

Gary explained: “At that stage we weren’t able to identify the offenders and we didn’t know who they were. But we were aware that they continued to visit EB.”

It was then discovered that EB had signed an agreement with his new “friends” which stated that if he were to leave his home for three months then it would be transferred to them as “trustees”.

Gary stated: “They then moved him out to a caravan in the middle of nowhere. He was no longer in his property.

“The only reason it came to light was that he suffered a serious fall in this caravan that had no electric, heating or running water.

“He went to hospital and thankfully came back on our radar and we got him back into some sheltered accommodation and then had to deal with the pseudo legal agreement which had been drawn up.

“Unfortunately we never really identified the offenders or prosecuted them. It was a failure in some ways. But the safeguarding element was that he was in a safe place. In that perspective it was a success.

“We helped him turn his life around and not lose his house fortunately.”

Mr Webster also recalled the story of a pensioner who was befriended  by a handyman who offered to do work for her and then befriending her and visited her in hospital and offered to get her shopping.

He had offered to carry out repairs needed at her home for £10 an hour but then presented her with  a bill for £8,000 claiming costs for visiting her in hospital and for magazines and grapes he had bought her.

When the victim said she couldn’t pay the conman suggested she give him a field she owned next to her home which was valued at £14,000.

In that case the offender was caught and given a suspended jail sentence and a fine.

Another case saw a 25-year-old man losing £17,000 on a job which had originally been quoted as costing £600.

Mr Webster said: “It was a constant drip of text messages saying they needed this and they needed that. They then say if you don’t pay the job won’t get done.”

The trading standards officer said that they wanted people to be on their guard about cold callers and people offering to do jobs at their home.

He said that trading standards worked alongside other agencies and council services to highlight issues around safeguarding to protect vulnerable people.