CTSI has issued its starkest warning yet about a significant rise in energy scams linked to the cost-of-living crisis and increased consumer vulnerability.
The Institute believes there is an urgent need for a strategy to inform, protect and warn consumers amid the crisis, especially as more than 40 million people have been targeted by scammers last year, according Citizens Advice.
Trading Standards experts are particularly concerned about scam energy rebate text messages, energy tariff mis-selling by doorstep sellers, and loan sharks preying on the most vulnerable affected by the cost-of-living crisis.
CTSI Lead Officer for Scams and Doorstep Crime, Katherine Hart, said: “There has been a huge surge in energy-efficiency scams offering rebates and offers to apply for grants. With the rise of costs in fuel bills and the cost-of-living concerns during the upcoming winter months, I urge the public to be on its guard because these types of emails and texts are attempts to scam.
“We see some of the texts or emails ask people to click on a link that takes them to an official booking platform where they are asked to submit personal information. This is a ruse to data harvest, often to scam the person at a later date. Sadly, we have noticed an increase in people whose savings have been compromised.
“I also expect that scammers will target households in the coming weeks regarding the £150 Disability Cost of Living payment. Households don’t need to apply for the rebate as suppliers are automatically applying it to bills for six months from October. If consumers receive emails or texts out of the blue, then report texts to 7726, emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and delete the message.”
CTSI Lead officer for Energy, Smart Meters and Climate Change, Steve Playle, said: “The end of September marked the last day before the next domestic energy cap came into force. I think the cap is confusing to many as £2,500 is not the maximum anyone will pay per annum but is the maximum for an average consumption household. This means you can still pay a lot more if you use more.
“Energy is continually in the news, so consumers are more likely to be aware of the pricing issues and the rebates that are available – £400 over the next six months. Consumers do not need to do anything – the rebate will be applied automatically by their energy company. Therefore, as always, ignore any messages and only deal directly with your energy company using their published phone numbers and email addresses.”
John Herriman, Chief Executive of CTSI said: “The cost-of-living crisis risks a significant rise in consumer detriment that the UK has not seen for decades. For the unscrupulous, current circumstances are opportunities to scrupulously profit from the most vulnerable.
“Local Trading Standards services are working in partnership with other agencies and have continually risen to the challenges of protecting consumers, but this has become increasingly difficult as gaps in consumer protection are emerging.
“Although Trading Standards is doing its utmost to protect the public, we remain concerned about the increased levels of risk and the potential for this to deteriorate.”
“CTSI continues its dialogues with the UK Government and other stakeholders about best practice in protecting consumers to highlight the need for a consumer protection strategy that recognises the impact on consumers and looks at ways to mitigate these as efficiently as possible.”