Don’t Fall Prey to Doorstep Scammers
Blocked drain scams have been reported again, although they have been a problem in Essex for several years now. Being the victim of a scam can be a very distressing experience, particularly for vulnerable people. But there are steps we can all take to ensure we don’t fall prey to the fraudsters.
Residents in Kent have been put on alert by police after several elderly residents were recently targeted by a blocked drain scam. Essex residents need to be equally vigilant.
In January, an elderly woman was told by a stranger who knocked on her door that there was a problem with the drains in the next door property and that she would need to pay £5,000 for them to come in and fix the problem.
The fraudster then persuaded the lady to go to her bank and withdraw the cash. Luckily, a quick-witted cashier suspected a scam, called the police, and prevented the victim from losing a significant amount of money.
Similarly, an elderly couple in a nearby area were asked to pay £5,000 to fix the blocked toilet of a man who claimed to be their neighbour. Luckily, no money was handed over but it was a distressing experience for the victims nonetheless.
While shocking, this type of fraud is unfortunately not unusual and many people throughout the UK are falling victim to doorstep scams every day.
What is Doorstep Fraud?
Doorstep fraud involves a stranger coming to your door with the aim of somehow conning you out of your money, or gaining access to your home in order to steal money or possessions.
These scams take many forms and can include bogus charity collectors, fake gas or electricity inspectors, pressure-selling, phoney customer services and, as in the cases above, tradesmen convincing people to undertake costly and unnecessary repair work.
In this kind of instance, what appears to be a legitimate tradesman or builder will try to convince you that urgent work is needed on your house, and will pressurise you into making a decision and paying for the work up front.
If you do agree to use their services, you will usually find that the work is either of very poor quality, or is never even carried out. Furthermore, the person involved generally provides a false identity and fake contact information, making it very difficult to claim your money back.
Unfortunately, older people tend to be prime targets for doorstep scammers, with over 85% of victims aged 65 and over.
How to Protect Yourself from Scammers
Falling victim to a doorstep scammer can be a very distressing experience, but there are steps you can take to minimise the risk of being caught out.
- Prevention is better than cure. Discourage doorstep sellers from calling at your property by displaying a ‘no cold callers’ sign, which you can get online or from your local council. It’s also worth installing a peephole so that you can see who is calling before deciding to open the door.
- You should always ask strangers to show official identification before letting them into your home. For an extra safety check, call the organisation’s customer service line to check that the identification is legitimate. Genuine callers will be happy to comply.
- Be careful about revealing any personal or financial details during your conversation. They could use these to steal your identity or access your finances.
- Bogus tradesmen can be very convincing, particularly when they make you think your home or safety is at risk. However, you should never accept the word of a stranger who has turned up unsolicited at your door. And most importantly, do not part with any cash, or sign any agreements until you have had a chance to consider the offer and seek a second opinion from a professional. Reputable companies, such as London Drainage Facilities, will often carry out a site survey and estimate free of charge.
- If you are purchasing goods or services, make sure the person provides you with their permanent business address and landline number – mobile numbers are too difficult to trace should things go wrong. Also, never pay for work before it is completed, and only then if it is up to standard.
- If you have doubts about, or are feeling threatened by a caller, don’t be afraid to ask them to leave. If they won’t leave, dial 999. If there is no immediate threat, you can also call the non-emergency police number on 101 to report the incident.
- Fraudsters tend to target the most vulnerable, so keep an eye out for friends, family or neighbours who you think might be particularly susceptible to this type of scam.
- Lastly, be suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true – it probably is!
Reporting a Scam
If you have been the victim of a scam, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed – it can happen to anyone. Reporting the incident helps to raise awareness of the scam and could lead to the arrest of the perpetrator, helping to prevent what happened to you from happening to somebody else.
As well as reporting the incident to the police, you can also report it to Action Fraud, who may be able to track down the guilty party. For advice and support, try contacting the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.
Being the victim of fraud is undoubtedly upsetting, and can prove very costly. It doesn’t look likely that the scammers will stop their fraudulent schemes any time soon, but by following the above steps you can help ensure that you are not taken in by their ploys.