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Winter Related Doorstep Scams and What to Avoid

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 7 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Doorstep Scam Scammers Traders Rogue

When the weather gets cold it’s optimum time for household related things to start going wrong. Unscrupulous traders will often try and take advantage of consumers who need repairs and maintenance on their property over the winter, as they know their services are at a premium.

Some traders like to catch you by surprise and offer their services on your doorstep, which neatly gets them into your home and gives them the opportunity to convince you that if you don’t have certain jobs done, your property will suffer.

In 2009/10 the Consumer Direct advice service received over 5,300 complaints about traders offering home maintenance services on the doorstep, an increase of 16 per cent on the previous year, so it’s clear that the problem of rogue doorstep tradesmen isn’t going away.

It’s not against the law for a trader to canvass for business on the doorstep, although there are rules and regulations that govern this type of selling activity, to protect consumers from falling prey to traders who try and convince them into work they don’t want or need. The problem is that this type of trader is aware that people are more scam-savvy these days, and will often target elderly homeowners who might not be so confident of their rights.

If you have elderly neighbours, keep an eye on them at this time of year, too. The Office of fair trading (OFT) along with Age UK has highlighted three main issues that scammers are focusing on this winter.

Cavity Wall Insulation

Last year we suffered from an extremely cold winter and the signs are that 2010 is going to be just as cold, so it’s prime time for a salesman to call on you offering to help with insulation to keep this year’s bills down. The usual scam is that they will appear at the door saying that they are part of an energy-saving scheme which gives discounted rates to selected consumers. Don’t be taken in by their patter though – the reality is that they are scammers and will charge you over the odds for poor quality work – if they even turn up to complete the job.

Roof Repairs

This one is old but still very popular with scammers. A builder or roofer just happens to be passing your home when they look up and notice urgent problems with your roof. These will naturally have to be completed immediately to avoid serious problems with your roof. This one is especially popular with elderly homeowners who can’t check the roof themselves. The work is, of course, completely unnecessary.

Driveway Maintenance

Another oldie but very popular after periods of cold weather which can damage driveways, roads and pavements. A builder will just be passing with a van load of leftover materials and offer to re-tarmac your driveway at a bargain price. Often they ask for payment in advance. They can be very persuasive...then if they actually come back to do the work, it will either be substandard, or in some cases will need ‘extra materials’ which will of course cost you more...and more...

How to Avoid being Scammed

If a trader calls at your door, they aren’t automatically a scammer. If you’re interested in services offered by a doorstep seller, a few checks should put your mind at rest. Ask them for personal identification and ask which company they are calling from. A genuine salesperson or trader will happily show you ID and company literature as they want the sale.

You should never give in to pressure to buy there and then, even if the salesperson is offering a ‘one day only’ deal. The deal will be on offer tomorrow and the next day, you can almost guarantee that. Take your time to decide whether you would like the work done, investigate further if you’re not sure it’s necessary and don’t let anyone carry out repairs or maintenance on the spot. If they arrive out of the blue with tales of unsafe buildings or one-day only offers, you should be wary, and probably send them packing.

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