What are doorstep scammers?
Buying goods or services from a cold caller can be risky as you probably won’t be able to contact them if something goes wrong. Doorstep scammers remain a serious problem across the whole of Scotland. Many are affiliated to serious organised crime groups and usually overcharge for work that is either unnecessary and/or substandard. They tend to target vulnerable and elderly consumers.
How do Doorstep Scammers Work?
Doorstep scammers are adept at gaining the trust of unsuspecting consumers. Some of the more common techniques they use are:
- Creating a website and using a temporary address in the local area to make their business seem credible and legitimate to unsuspecting consumers
- Using a name similar to a legitimate company which trades in the same area in order to gain the trust of consumers
- Changing their business name to avoid detection, but using the same sales techniques and being run by the same people
The most common types of work that doorstep scammers carry out are roofing, driveways and gardening. They mainly operate during the summer months and often target rural areas. They may tell consumers that:
- Urgent repair work is needed on part of their property
- They can offer the consumer a special deal or reduction which is only available on that day
- They have recently completed similar work at houses in the local area
They go to great lengths to appear legitimate and often target vulnerable people who may not be able to make informed decisions. They offer to start work immediately, without providing proper paperwork or allowing the consumer time to think about what they are agreeing to or seek a second opinion.
Download our No Cold Calling leaflet and let cold callers know that they’re not welcome
What You Can Do
To prevent scammers knocking on your door, you can request a No Cold Calling sticker from your local Trading Standards office or from Trading Standards Scotland. If an uninvited trader ignores the sticker, they may be committing an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
You can also sign up to the Neighbourhood Watch Scotland Alert system to receive timely alerts about local crime prevention and safety issues from partners such as Police Scotland. If there are known rogue traders in your area, you will be alerted. Sign up through the Neighbourhood Watch Scotland website.
Never feel pressured into making a decision on the spot. Any legitimate trader will be happy to return at a later date – you may want to ask a friend, neighbour or relative to be with you when they call back to give a second opinion.
Never agree to a trader starting work straight away and never hand over any money without seeing proper paperwork and making sure that you understand the terms and conditions, including cancellation rights.
Before agreeing to have any work done by an uninvited trader, remember our quick guide to making scammers QUIT:
- Get at least three QUOTES from reputable companies before agreeing to have any work done. Your local council may have a reputable trader scheme, or you can find reputable companies through… (links below)
- Don’t sign any paperwork unless you are sure that you UNDERSTAND all of the small print and terms and conditions. Remember that you are legally entitled to a 14-day cancellation period for all goods and services over £42 unless the product is bespoke.
- Check the salesperson’s ID and take a note of the company name, address and contact details. Legitimate traders will be happy to wait while you perform these checks. Close the door on the trader and rather than phoning the number on their card, look for a number published in the phone book or online.
- Don’t feel pressured into making any decisions. Take as much TIME as you need to think about whether you need and want the product. Always get a second opinion from someone you trust and, if possible, check online reviews of the company through a reputable site.
If you have concerns about a purchase that you have made, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000. If you feel uncomfortable or suspicious about a cold caller in your local area, phone Police Scotland on 101.