Nationwide Shut out Scammers campaign launched by Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland to combat a rise in doorstep scams linked to the cost of living crisis

As more Scottish consumers struggle with price increases and rising energy bills, Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland have launched a nationwide Shut out Scammers campaign.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the mis-selling of energy efficiency measures, doorstep crime, rogue trading scams and other forms of financial harm to which consumers are susceptible. The campaign aims to empower consumers rather than make them fearful and to encourage the reporting of doorstep crime.

Rogue traders and companies 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.

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 their methods to take advantage of consumers’ anxieties and uncertainties around the cost of living crisis.

In recent months, there has been an increase in reports from Scottish consumers about cold calls and scams relating to energy efficiency products such as boilers or roof insulation. 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. Consumers are told that they will receive their money back over time but rarely do. They often overinflate their prices and then apply ‘discounts’ which are supposedly equivalent to government grants.

The Shut out Scammers campaign will run from 25 April – 22 May.

Case Study

Lesley, a retired teacher from Paisley, was visited last month by a cold caller who told her that his  company was offering free loft inspections in the local area. She agreed to make an appointment and, the next day, two men arrived and went into her loft.  They told Lesley they had found potentially toxic mould and damp patches and that she would need to get new insulation, at a cost of over £7,000.

Worried that the mould could be dangerous if left untreated, Lesley agreed to take out a loan to cover the cost of the insulation. The men helped her find and apply for a loan online.

When she tried to transfer the money, her bank flagged the transaction as a potential scam and contacted the police. They visited Lesley and were able to cancel the loan and ensure that she would not be contacted again by the rogue traders.

Lesley’s daughter later contacted Home Energy Scotland and had an impartial inspection of the loft carried out – they found that, although there was some mould, it wasn’t toxic. The advised that vents costing only £200 could be installed to solve the problem and that, even if she had needed extra insulation, it should only have cost between £2,000-£4,000.

A COSLA Spokesperson said: 

“It is 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. 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.”

Detective Superintendent Dave Ferry, Depute Chair 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.

We have a range of useful advice on our website aimed at protecting the public from doorstep criminals and rogue traders and this can be viewed by visiting www.scotland.police.uk”