Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland have launched a nationwide ‘Shut out Scammers’ campaign in an effort to raise awareness of the mis-selling of energy efficiency measures, doorstep crime, rogue trading scams and other forms of financial harm.
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.
A Convention of Scottish Local Authorities 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.”