A Scotland-wide campaign has been launched to help combat doorstep scams after a rise in complaints about con artists exploiting the huge rise in energy bills.
The Shut out Scammers campaign, launched on Monday by Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland, aims to raise awareness of mis-selling of energy efficiency measures, doorstep crime, rogue trading scams, and other frauds people can fall victim to.
In recent months, Trading Standards said, there had been a rise in reports about cold calls and scams relating to energy efficiency products like boilers or roof insulation.
It, along with the police, is now warning that rogue traders may attempt to exploit the cost of living crisis and scam consumers by providing misleading information about products and services and posting misleading adverts and reviews online.
Detective superintendent Dave Ferry, depute chairman of Police Scotland Acquisitive Crime Tactical Board, said: “Typically, door-step criminals look to fraudulently represent tradespeople so that they can gain access to your home where they look to steal items of value which can include your personal information that they can then use for financial gain.
“The Shut out Scammers campaign aims to bring these scams to the public attention so that communities are informed and feel empowered to question cold-callers and turn away anyone whose identity they do not feel is genuine.”
Dishonest companies target those who want to make their homes more energy efficient, saying that funding or grants are available for their products, yet asking consumers to pay for the products up front or take out a loan.
Trading Standards Scotland said last month one retired teacher in Paisley was visited by a cold caller who said his company was offering free loft inspections.
She was told they had found a potentially toxic mould and damp patches, and that she would have to fork out £7,000 for new insulation.
Worried it could be dangerous if left untreated, the pensioner agreed to take out a loan and they scammers even helped her find a loan online.
It was only when her bank flagged the transaction as potentially fraudulent their scam started to unravel, and police were able to cancel the loan and ensure she would not be contacted again by the rogue traders.
Once a legitimate inspection of the loft was complete by Home Energy Scotland, they found that although there was some mould it wasn’t toxic.
They said vents costing only £200 could be installed to solve the problem, and even if she needed extra insulation it should have cost between £2,000 and £4,000.
A Convention of Scottish Local Authorities spokesman said it was “more important than ever to protect consumers from scammers and rogue traders who are adapting their methods to changing circumstances”.
“We urge consumers not to deal with cold callers and to seek local traders who have been vetted by Trading Standards and who have made a commitment to treat customers fairly via approved trader schemes,” the spokesman said.
“Do plenty of research into companies before agreeing to any work being undertaken, remembering that online adverts can be misleading and that reviews can be faked. It is advisable to check at least three different review sites and to get more than one quote for a piece of work.
“We are also asking people to look out for family members, friends and neighbours who may be vulnerable and to report any suspicious behaviour to Police Scotland.”