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Doorstep crime: why we need to be vigilant

Lockdown restrictions easing may see scammers looking for new ways to take advantage. Have you had a rogue trader knock on your door lately?

We know that a lot of tradespeople’s diaries have taken a hit these last few months – the lockdown will have prevented many from accessing people’s houses, while some have had to furlough staff and postpone jobs.

This has likely meant that you’ve had to wait before one of our endorsed Which? Trusted Traders or your go-to builder becomes available.

That potential lack of availability could lead to doorstep criminals looking to take advantage, with cheap prices for ‘quick jobs’ suddenly looking appealing.

Our Which? Trusted Traders assessors are all ex-Trading Standards professionals with a wealth of experience dealing with rogue traders and doorstep crime, so we know all too well the devastating effects this type of fraud can have on its victims.

That’s why we’re urging people to be vigilant as lockdown eases.

Who might be vulnerable?

Some may have the perception that victims of doorstep crime are older, more vulnerable people. While there are plenty of instances of rogue traders targeting older victims, it’s not always the case.

What if you’ve never had to have building work carried out before, or maybe it’s your first home or you’re new to an area? 

Lots of people will get recommendations for good builders from friends or relatives, but what can you do if you don’t have a support network like that? It might be difficult to know where to start when choosing a tradesperson.

It can be a bit of a daunting process – you may find yourself asking; how do I know the trader is reputable? How do I know I’m getting a fair price? And, what should I do if something goes wrong?

There are a few things you can do to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable trader.

Golden rules for staying safe

👷‍♂️ No cold callers: don’t engage with people who cold call and knock on your door offering their services. You should never feel pressured to make a decision in your own home.

👷‍♀️ Be patient and get quotes: you should always try to get at least three quotes for the work, but generally the more the better. This way you can get a view of what a fair price is, and take your time to decide.

👷‍♂️ Do your research: take the time to read a trader’s customer reviews (good and bad!) from independent sources – all the reviews left on our traders are moderated to ensure they’ve been left by genuine customers.

👷‍♀️ Never pay upfront: you should always pay a trader in stages and hold back full payment until the job is completed satisfactorily.

What to do if the job goes wrong

It’s important to know that you’re protected in the event things don’t go to plan. After all, there could be a lot of money at stake.

We’d recommend that you check to see whether a trader is part of a Dispute Resolution scheme, such as the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman.

All the traders on our scheme have access to the Ombudsman should it be needed, which we believe helps raise standards.

Have you ever been cold called on the doorstep? Ever been tempted to go along with an offer made out of the blue?

Let us know in the comments if you’ve had any experiences.

Comments

Always pay tradesmen by card. Any tradesman who requires payment in cash raises deep suspicion in my eyes, whether it’s tax evasion, lack of traceability or lack of redress. With card payments, one has redress via card issuers, especially with credit cards for services or goods costing more than £100.

Suzanne says:
8 July 2020

Cold calling is such bad practice for so many reasons, glad to see the awareness being raised

Kristin says:
8 July 2020

Thanks Gareth to getting the message out there for everyone to be vigilant & the golden rules to staying safe

We have recently had a spate of poorly put together marketing dropped through our door – bad spelling mistakes, business cards that only have mobile numbers etc for “any work we need” with no specific company details so I can look them up anywhere – hope no one falls for it.

Rosie says:
8 July 2020

I’m so glad this is being raised! With a lot of people currently having to stay at home, this can make anyone an easy target for cold callers. I’ll be sharing these tips with my friends and family. Thank you

Jessica says:
8 July 2020

Really helpful tips – thank you for sharing!

I have always been wary of doorstep traders, either saying ‘no’ or taking their card. Last year I had work done on the house by company that does employ doorstop sales but that was because I had seen examples of their work.

Beware of the so-called Nottingham Knockers.

They are usually young men with a big rucksack or backpack who knock on doors trying to sell you cheap tat, usually cleaning products.

They flash you their ‘official’ identity card, give you a hard luck story about turning over a new leaf after coming out of prison and try to guilt-trip you into helping them in their new life of the straight and narrow. They will tell you any ‘No cold calling area’ signs in your area don’t apply to them.

Don’t be fooled. They are lying and are bussed in by gangs offloading mostly junk. They can also be using this ploy to check out properties and people for further scams or burglary.

The police like to be informed if they are operating in your area.

That is a coincidence, Alfa.

Yesterday I received a rogue trader alert from Norfolk County Council as follows –

We are warning residents to be on their guard after receiving reports of doorstep cold callers trying to sell household cleaning products.

This follows an incident today [8 July 2020] where a young man cold-called at a property in Diss claiming he was from a ‘youth offending team’ and was selling items ‘donated by charities to gain marketing skills’. The resident declined the offer and reported the incident to us.

Our advice is never deal with anyone who cold calls at your property offering to sell something.

It is possible these sellers will continue to move on to other locations in Norfolk.

The county council’s Trading Standards service issues these warnings every week to keep residents up to date with recent and ongoing scams – many of which are local and not picked up by other media.

There is also a warning to Facebook users to be wary of fake ‘Argos returns’ pages which hold scam competitions and giveaways as a way of gaining personal details. One particular post claims to be giving away free 65” curved TVs and asks the Facebook user to follow a link in order to register for the gift.

Another item in the latest list is a report from a Norfolk resident who has received a letter stating they are the sole beneficiary of a late relative’s estate. The letter mentions Covid-19 restrictions as a way of appearing more authentic. The letter requests the recipient to provide their personal details so that the funds can be released to them. In this case the letter is actually reasonably grammatical and plausible but it does go over the top in justifying the unusual form of approach. There is a certain amusement value in reading it and wondering whether anyone would actually be taken in by it.

The Norfolk CC document can be viewed here –
https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/business/trading-standards/scams/consumer-alerts

The Norfolk CC trading standards alert also includes links to the Citizens Advice website with information about common consumer scams to look out for, the Trading Standards Institute list of the latest product recalls, and the Food Standards Agency list of the latest food safety alerts.

They get everywhere.

Jill says:
10 July 2020

A couple of years ago, a young gentleman knocked on our door and asked whether we wanted our gutters cleaning. I sid no. He then said his dad was cleaning next door’s gutters and mentioned”trusted traders” and that our neighbour had booked their services. I asked the name of the neighbour who had”booked” them, the name was incorrect. He then said”if you go down your path, you can see my dad on the roof. I declined. At that point he gave up and muttered that I was the hardest English lady he had met, which I considered a great compliment!
Needless to say, when we checked with our neighbour, they had not made any booking to have their gutters cleaned

Malcolm Dunmow says:
10 July 2020

Recent cold callers (2 over 2 or 3 weeks) alleged there were “problems with internet connections in our street”, and were we having any problems?
Suspecting that the next move would be to ask if they could come in and check our router or similar, we politely refused, and they left.
Worrying, as we are over 75 and shielding.

Jo says:
10 July 2020

A timely warning. Yesterday had someone call who ‘was doing a job down the road’ and asking would we like our gutters cleaned. Having respectfully declined the kind offer from the very rotund gentleman with an accent west of the British Isles I was then offered a driveway clean with a pressure washer.

Safestyle UK replacement windows already have people knocking on doors touting for business. I told the young lad he was in a no cold-calling area, he said sorry he didn’t know but carried on down our dead-end lane instead of leaving.

Phone scammers are back with a vengeance:

BT Global are back wanting to fix my internet speed. I played along for a while when they said I wasn’t getting the speed of 75 Mbps I was supposed to be getting and was quickly passed to a 2nd tier scammer. He wasted a lot of time spelling out t-e-a-m-v-i-e-w e r and even more when I asked him to repeat the letters. He put the phone down on me when I asked him if his mother was proud of him scamming people.

This morning I have had loft insulation but he must have been out of practice as called about the loft insulation that had been fitted . . .

Plus 3 silent calls already today …..

Barry Hadfield says:
18 July 2020

Just a few years ago we had a man who knocked on the door saying that he was working just a few doors away cutting and tidying up some trees, and would we have any that needed doing, unfortunately for me I did have an old silver birch that was going rotten from the bottom up and in some danger of falling down, which he said he would fell and remove all the wood for £50, so after giving it some thought, I agreed and he left to get help, he came back within the hour with a boy and proceeded to cut down the tree, after a short while, and having taken the money off me, he said he would have to go and unload the large pieces of the trunk from his truck so he would have room to take all the smaller branches and brush wood that was left all over our back garden lawn …….. yes you have guessed it, we never saw either of them again, leaving me having to hire a skip so as to get rid of what was left, and tidy up the mess, it would seem that he only took the wood that he could sell as logs, and had no intentions of taking anything that he couldn’t sell, that was the first, and last time that I have given any work to a cold caller,
I got caught, make sure YOU don’t .

Victor says:
18 July 2020

If you ask for a quote make sure it is a break down on what is involved and not just a sum of money. I had a quote once and the only work mentioned was replacing the gutters. This was for treating the facia. I rejected the quote and got a reply saying it was high because they had to source the wood! All I wanted was the facia painted. Also there was nothing wrong with the gutters (I had cleaned them out myself a few weeks before the quote)

Newlands says:
19 July 2020

Never thought I would be had! But I was! Council re tarmac ‘d road, then came some door knockers, even had Highways paperwork stating left over materials, offered to do my small drive for £70, there and then.. ( I know! )….. All they did was through some road chippings down, obviously stolen from the road works, and poured some tar coloured water over it….

Then the boss comes with his clip board and another big bloke!, was handing him the 70quid and he said, no….It was £470!! He started being intimidating and asked to come into house to talk about it…I was so scared and panicked, ran in house and managed to slam door shut before they grabbed me etc.. They was then kicking the door and banging the windows etc…

Called police and they couldnt have been less disinterested despite my person and property being at risk of damage…Then 20 mins later they return with 4 x other heavies! So scary and intimidating, it left me feel violated in my own home…

So called police again and was told off for being discriminatory when I said it was obvious the ‘ criminals ‘ where of a certain community!

Don’t trust anyone when it comes to this stuff, they are ruthless and for them its all about £’s, we are all vulnerable when it comes to these horrid folk but it breaks my heart that they prey on the most vulnerable and have no qualms about it…

Sorry to hear that. Such folk have been around doing that for generations.

Some offer gardening work instead of tarmacing, but it still costs rip off prices for very shoddy work.

As ever the best advice is, no matter what the doorstep offer is, just say No.

Marlow says:
20 July 2020

Sorry to hear that Newlands. I’ve been had to the tune of £80 myself by Gippo’s. The saddest thing though, is that the police don’t seem to give a stuff!

If anyone is wondering about the case for having “home doorbell cctv”, I think this kind of behaviour shows one good reason for having such kit.

Ipplepine says:
20 July 2020

I remember when Crime Prevention Officers used to provide home-owners with a sticker for the front door, stating that they will never deal with doorstep traders. I’m not sure of their effectiveness, but couldn’t Which? design and publish one, which could be printed by members?

Ipplepine – For a previous home I designed and printed my own version. It was quite quick and easy and you don’t need all the police and council logos all over it. I doubt there are many dedicated crime prevention officers nowadays – no one has yet found a way of preventing crime; all you can do is disrupt it temporarily.