Nationwide Shut out Scammers campaign launched by Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland to combat a rise in doorstep scams during the Covid-19 pandemic

Following an increase in the number and variety of doorstep scams being carried out in communities across Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic, Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland have launched a nationwide Shut out Scammers campaign.

In addition to more traditional doorstep scams reported during the summer months, with rogue traders offering to carry out home maintenance, gardening work or services such as gutter cleaning or pressure washing, fraudsters have adapted to the changing circumstances of the lockdown.

Since lockdown began in March, Scottish consumers have reported scammers cold calling households and posing as Red Cross or NHS workers to collect donations for fake Covid-19 charities. Other scammers have posed as local council staff and offered to buy groceries for self-isolating or shielding individuals, taking their money but failing to return. Rogue traders have also offered cleaning services in order to disinfect driveways, properties and even doorbells of the virus.

The Shut out Scammers campaign will run from 15-26 June and is supported by Advice Direct Scotland, Neighbourhood Watch Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

During the campaign, local Trading Standards teams will raise awareness of doorstep crime, rogue trading scams and other forms of financial harm to which consumers, particularly the elderly, are susceptible. The campaign aims to empower consumers rather than make them fearful and to encourage the reporting of doorstep crime.

Trading Standards Scotland have developed a range of resources to help prevent members of the public becoming victims of doorstep scams, with advice leaflets being distributed by many local authorities as part of their shielding packs. A weekly Scam Share bulletin which highlights the most recent doorstep, cyber, phone and email scams affecting Scottish consumers has been sent to over 14,000 recipients since the beginning of the lockdown.

Consumers can also request No Cold Calling stickers from their local authority or from Trading Standards Scotland, which warn cold callers that the occupant does not wish to engage with them.

Councillor Kelly Parry, Chair of Trading Standards Scotland and COSLA’s Community Wellbeing Spokesperson said:

“As lockdown eases, we are seeing an increase in doorstep crime. Scammers are taking advantage of people’s anxieties and uncertainties about the Covid-19 pandemic and are adapting their methods to the changing circumstances. Rogue traders go to great lengths to appear legitimate by advertising their services through company websites, glossy leaflets and social media and obtaining liveried vehicles and workwear with a company logo.

“The partnership approach between Police Scotland and Trading Standards Scotland is essential to disrupt rogue traders, protect consumers and raise awareness of these scams. It is more important than ever that we work together to shut out doorstep scammers and to ensure that legitimate traders can get back to work as part of the nationwide economic recovery from the pandemic.

“Trading Standards staff continue to work to identify and protect scams and to protect Scottish consumers.”

Superintendent Tim Ross, Safer Communities Division at Police Scotland, said:

“It’s not always easy to spot a rogue trader or bogus caller so we are asking the public to take some simple, but effective action to stop them becoming a victim. Anyone can be fooled – these people are professional con artists.

“Always ask for ID and research companies before agreeing to any work being undertake. You can also consult your local Trusted Trader Scheme and it is always recommended to get three quotes for a piece of work.

“Never let anyone make you feel pressured into making an on the spot decision, and never hand over any money until you have received appropriate paperwork (contract/service agreement/invoice) and understand what the terms and conditions are.

“We are also asking people to look out for family members and neighbours who may be vulnerable, and may be seen as an easy target by rogue traders. Share this advice with friends and relatives – and encourage them to phone a trusted person, or the police, if they are in any doubt about someone who has turned up unannounced.

“While this is likely to be a busy time for our officers, we are here to help 24 hours a day. Please be vigilant, and if you have any concerns at all, either for yourself, or a vulnerable family member, friend or neighbour, please do not hesitate to phone the police immediately on 101, or in an emergency on 999.”

Andrew Bartlett, CEO of Advice Direct Scotland / said:

“Doorstep scams impact everyone. When our neighbours, friends and family members are targeted by rogue traders, the impacts are far reaching, financially and emotionally. Targets of these scams are particularly vulnerable at this time due to self-isolation and social distancing from support networks that they could normally reach out to.”

“The harmful impacts caused by the actions of doorstep scammers place consumers in positions of serious detriment. These scams affect us all and have exceptionally far-reaching consequences. We would urge anyone who has been impacted by doorstep scams, including those dealing with a trader where something doesn’t feel quite right, to contact us.”

Lorriane Gillies – Chief Officer, Neighbourhood Watch Scotland said:

“One of the key values of Neighbourhood Watch Scotland is supporting and encouraging communities to look out for each other. We have seen an increase in doorstep scams since COVID-19 and  the devastating impact it can have on individuals. As such it has never been so essential for communities across Scotland to be informed with relevant, timely and trusted advice on how to deal with and prevent themselves and their loved ones becoming victims of these crimes.

“Neighbourhood ALERT allows our key partners to send out such information and create an opportunity for reporting and feedback  of any relevant intelligence. Through an effective partnership approach we can all help reduce and prevent these Scams”