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Energy crisis sees rise in rogue doorstep callers offering ‘free insulation’

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31/10/2022
Rogue doorstep sellers are cashing in on the cost-of-living crisis as they pressure victims to pay money upfront for work which they wrongly claim can be clawed back from the government.

Households are urged to be on guard as the Chartered Trading Standards Institute warns of unscrupulous doorstep callers pressuring people to part with their cash as part of a ‘government funding scheme’.

It reported a 28% increase in doorstep crime in the past year and has seen a rise in complaints from people about callers knocking on doors out of the blue to tell them they may be eligible for free insulation.

The rogue traders use pressure selling techniques and “persuasive jargon” about the energy crisis to make people agree to works which need to be paid upfront but with reassurances they can claim the cost back from the government.

In one example, households are offered a ‘free health check’ of their roof which results in false claims about poor insulation and issues with damp and mould. Sometimes spray foam is offered as a solution even if it isn’t necessary.

According to the CTSI, people have had problems selling their homes or applying for mortgages if this isn’t done correctly.

‘Preying on the most vulnerable in our communities’

CTSI lead officer for scams and doorstep crime, Katherine Hart, said: “Times are tough for people right now, and every penny is needed for some households to just keep their heads above the water.

“These rogue doorstep callers are preying on the most vulnerable in our communities and promising them all sorts of lies to help with the cost of living. However, these criminals will prey on anyone, any age, and any background.

“We know that reputable traders may have a backlog at the moment and this makes us want to cut corners, but we have to be patient and don’t fall foul for a scam that may cost dearly in the future.

“Trading Standards are doing all they can to stamp out these unscrupulous traders, but consumer education is key. Warn your grandparents, your parents, and your neighbours to never engage with anyone that turns up unannounced at the door.”

Top tips to stay safe on your doorstep

The CTSI lists these tips to help you avoid falling for a scam:

  • Never agree to anything on the doorstep – take time to think
  • Look at reviews but do not rely on them – they can be faked
  • Make sure you get all the paperwork and keep it safe
  • Use a trader from an Approved Trader Scheme
  • Always pay for services using methods such as; credit card, debit card, Apple Pay and PayPal as this gives added protection
  • Further advice on how to save money on your energy bills can be found at Home Energy Scotland and the Energy Saving Trust

Chief executive at HEIS consumer code, Faisal Hussain, added: “In these difficult and challenging times where we are experiencing an increase in energy bills, it is even more important to ensure you are vigilant for any scams or too good to be true offers. Please do your research and never make a snap decision. Look at gaining two to three quotes from installers who are accredited and monitored to help ensure you are protected.”

CTSI added that it relies on members of the public to report crimes as its “action is intelligence led, so resources will be focused on where the detriment is at its highest and consumers are most at risk”.

If you live in England and Wales, you can report to The Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133, Scotland should call 0808 800 9060 and Northern Ireland residents can report to 0300 123 6262.

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