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Warning about ‘toxic mould’ scammers

Written by: Emma Lunn
Cold-callers are targeting deprived areas with fake toxic mould surveys and bogus energy-efficiency claims, Trading Standards warns.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) said its teams across the country have received reports of cold-callers offering households ‘free surveys’ of homes to check for signs of mould. 

In some cases, the scammers then use high-pressure sales tactics to trick people into paying an ‘admin fee’ of £50 to £250, which they claim is necessary to secure a Government energy-efficiency grant. 

The scammers then fail to return to carry out the work, and victims are unable to contact them to get their money back.

In other cases, the scammers have carried out work, including installing spray foam insulation which they claim has ‘mould killing qualities’ but charged excessive amounts.

Unnecessary work

The work is often poor quality or unnecessary. In some cases the poor quality work has affected the mortgageability of the property. 

In addition to cold-calling, scammers are also attempting to arrange surveys by text and phone call. 

In one case, a retired teacher in Glasgow was almost scammed out of £7,000 by cold-callers who told her they had found toxic mould in her attic. Fortunately, her bank spotted the signs of a scam when she tried to take out a loan suggested by the scammers.

‘Don’t engage at the door’

John Herriman, CTSI chief executive, said: “As people worry about their energy bills during the cost-of-living crisis, many are cutting back on heating, which can lead to problems with damp and condensation. By cashing in on people’s legitimate concerns about mould and energy efficiency, scammers continue to plumb the depths of cynicism. They are exploiting elderly residents, parents, and anybody they think they can trick into handing over money under false pretences.

“Trading Standards will continue to work to ensure that front doors will always remain closed to scammers, and those responsible for scams are brought to justice.”

Katherine Hart, CTSI lead officer for doorstep crime, said: “Don’t engage with anyone at the door, and never invite a cold-caller into your home. If you are thinking about installing energy-efficiency or anti-damp measures in your home, make sure you check that the company you use is fully accredited and you know where to reach them if you need to.

“Similarly, never respond to offers of home repair work you receive via text or phone – in most cases these are sent by scammers seeking to steal money or personal details.”

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