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Danger on the doorstep: Cold caller warning as complaints soar

© Shutterstock / Paul VowlesWarning over rise of doorstep cold callers
Warning over rise of doorstep cold callers

Scots are being warned about the dangers of cold-callers as complaints of theft and fraud have soared since lockdown.

Doorstep crime can affect anyone, but often elderly and vulnerable people are targeted by rogue traders offering home improvement services, or by bogus callers who claim to be from the council, police, health carers, market researchers or utility companies.

In 2021, £25.8 million was lost to doorstep crime and 5,588 incidents reported to Trading Standards.

Recent complaints to the watchdog include consumers who have lost large sums of money for work that has been proven to be of minimal value, often requiring people to pay out substantial sums to legitimate traders to have the work rectified.

In addition, consumers have alleged they have felt intimidated and pressurised into agreeing to pay for work they didn’t want.

Complaints have also been received from consumers who have used local websites where the public post the jobs they require, in the belief that they will avoid rogue traders. However, doorstep operators often respond to such requests. They often use fake profiles and vastly under-quote for jobs to get a response.

Katherine Hart, lead officer for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute in Scotland, cautioned crooks are also taking advantage of the rising cost of living.

“People should be on the lookout for energy efficiency scams,” she said. “Often these cause more financial burdens further down the line – so don’t cut corners, ensure you use a reputable company.

“Doorstep crime used to be committed by a pushy trader at the door but it has now evolved as we can be exploited by phone, texts and online.”

© Jamie Williamson
Katherine Hart of Chartered Trading Standards Institute

Last week, police warned people in Helensburgh to be on the alert after receiving reports of bogus workers claiming to be putting in broadband on behalf of Argyll and Bute Council.

One cold caller asked a resident for an up-front payment of £200 and an ongoing monthly payment of £20, which they would return and collect. The council has advised they have nothing to do with supplying broadband and had no workers in the area.

Police say that in another case reported in the same region, a man claiming he worked for money-saving expert Martin Lewis was knocking on doors asking residents if they knew what wifi cable they had, as work was being carried out on cables in the area.

He asked to look at their phone or tablet to “check the wifi”. There have also been reports of cold callers claiming to be from BT and who say they have received complaints about the internet speed in the area. They then ask to enter the house to do a speed check.

As well as being wary about who you let into your home, consumers should also take care before signing any contracts, Hart said.

“Never be pressurised into making a decision – even if the company are telling you that the price is only available on that day,” she explained.

“Many victims also suffer emotional trauma, the onset of health problems and have a prolonged fear of crime.”

To deter rogue traders you can place a sign in your door or window informing doorstep callers that they are not welcome.

You can point the sign out to unwelcome callers and inform them that if they persist they may be committing a criminal offence.