/ Scams

Have you been visited by a doorstep scammer?

Amid the third national lockdown, we’ve heard a growing number of reports of suspicious uninvited callers targeting people on their doorsteps. Have you been paid a visit?

We’re doing more things than ever online and by phone during the pandemic, so it’s no surprise that scam sites, calls and texts have rightly garnered media attention.

But we’re also hearing more reports of doorstep scammers. Last week came the horrifying news of a COVID-19 vaccine fraudster who charged a pensioner £160 after visiting her home and injecting an unknown substance into her arm.

Back in July, our Which? Trusted Traders team issued a similar warning, while the Master Locksmiths Association warned of a surge in rogue locksmiths entering the largely unregulated profession – possibly as a result of having lost their previous employment due to the pandemic.

In one case, a woman was quoted £200 after being locked out, with the fee suddenly increasing to £1.5k once the job was completed. She was too scared to argue as she and the scammer were alone at night and he was holding a drill.

In October, we also hosted the Confederation of Roofing Contractors here on Which? Conversation, which had also noticed a surge of cold calls in its profession.

Investigating face-to-face scams

Which? Money is looking into this possible increase in doorstep scams and we’d like to hear from you about your experiences since the pandemic began.

Have you received any unsolicited home visits which made you feel uncomfortable? These could include:

⚠ Tradespeople offering services (e.g. tarmacing, roofing, double glazing)

⚠ Charity representatives or those with personal ‘hard luck’ stories

⚠ Salespeople (e.g. cleaning and household products)

⚠ People claiming to represent the council, police or NHS

⚠ People offering to switch your energy supply

⚠ Anyone else whose purpose you weren’t sure of?

Perhaps the visitor asked or demanded to be invited in, put you under pressure to make a snap decision, or asked for sensitive personal and financial information?

If you’ve rather not describe what happened in public, please do leave a comment letting us know and we’ll arrange for one of the team to contact you directly for a personal chat.

Comments

A new one they propose to buy your old double glazing for a good price if you buy their new one !!!!!
and they want to check your to tell you if they are out of date or not legal ?????
That was in October and NO WAY!!! as they (5 of them!!!) look a bit weird and well dress!!!!!!!!

LAURENCE BALBES says:
21 January 2021

I had someone call at my door last week saying that my gutters were blocked and offering to clear them out. I told him that I did it myself when I was pruning my Virginia Creeper. He tried to persuade me to let him do it but I said No thanks and closed the door.

Caroline Layton says:
21 January 2021

A few weeks ago a woman came to the door saying she was carrying out a survey – I asked who the survey was for – she didn’t tell me but then asked the name of my bank – is it Barclays, etc. I didn’t tell her and shut the door.

… couple of occasions recently: young males, claiming to be on an official prison rehabilitation scheme, selling overpriced kitchen/cleaning goods. Dropped off in the area for door-to-door knocking and collected later in the day.

They are commonly known as the Nottingham Knockers who often use the excuse of selling cheap tat to check out people’s houses.
https://www.actionfraudalert.co.uk/da/353911/Nottingham_Knockers.html

If you are signed up to receive police alert emails, they may ask you to inform them if these scammers knock on your door.

People legitimately selling door-to-door require a pedlars certificate which you can ask to see. Genuine certificates are issued by application to the police after they have done a PNC check: this means that ex-offenders are extremely unlikely to be granted a certificate. A few months ago a young woman came to my door with the usual range of tat for sale and the usual ‘ex-offender being rehabilitated’ spiel. What followed was an amusing piece of theatre…
The distance from my door to my front gate is about four metres. After giving her story the woman looked at me expectantly and I asked her (pleasantly) if she had a pedlars certificate. She walked backwards a step and said ‘Hey! Backwards another step, ‘What’s with the attitude; backwards another step, “Actually I had got one”; backwards another step, “But you’re not allowed to ask me to show it” (not true); backwards another step, “Even the police can’t ask me to show it”; backwards another step, “Even if you are a policeman you’re off duty so you can’t ask to see it”. She had now walked backwards out of my gate, turned and walked off, presumably to annoy one of my neighbours.
How you behave in these situations, I guess, depends upon how intimidated you feel. You could just shut the door without saying anything but many people, I’m sure, would then spend the rest of the evening worrying about having acted in an uncharitable, rude way (exactly the decent feelings that these charlatans prey upon). Ask them for their pedlars certificate: if they haven’t got one then they aren’t approved salespeople. If they have got one but they they’ve delivered the ‘ex-offender’ chat then the certificate is fake. Either way you can shut the door without feeling rude. If you feel confident, you could say that the only way you’ll deal with them is if they hold up the certificate next to their head for you to take a photo:- that might get them to walk away (or punch you and/or steal your phone – I did say ‘if you feel confident’!) If they are stupid enough to agree then you’ve got useful photo evidence if/when you report the incident to the police.

Tom Bone says:
22 January 2021

Police in my area won’t deal with Nottingham Knockers. They came round in early September and Police weren’t interested. I suspect because of no Police action in September they came round again in December. This time it got quite nasty, threats to break windows, on couple were even spat at.

J Nicoll says:
23 January 2021

Even if someone shows you some sort of certificate or badge, there’s no way for you to be sure it is genuine, or tell what it actually means.

Jim Dukes says:
21 January 2021

I had a pleasant enough man visit me on two different occasions., telling me me that I was in urgent need of repairs. They were different on each occasion. I sent him on his way.
.

Heather Blackett says:
21 January 2021

My concern for some years has been the prevalence of unsolicited callers peddling (inferior) household products, about once every 2/3 weeks. There is always a hard luck story and it is difficult to resist when it is dark and cold outside, especially if it is a woman (rare) and when one has so much in comparison. Having questioned them over the years, it seems that they are dropped off at the top of a road to work their way down. Sometimes they say that they must sell so much in order to qualify for accommodation; sometimes they claim that they’re on a training scheme! Several are quite open about being ex-offenders. Trading Standards is not interested. The individuals and the householder (me) are both being exploited. My local councillor’s response was that they don’t target the housing estates! Occasionally, when I’ve pointed out that someone else called the previous day or that I gave them something a month ago, they can become aggressive. What best to do – stating that you support relevant charities is not the answer face to face on your door step??

You posted the same time as my post above Heather. They are scammers known as the Nottingham Knockers trying to get you to feel sorry for them so you buy their rubbish.

Pamela Pearce says:
21 January 2021

I was approached at a motorway service station by a well-spoken and well dressed young man who told a hard-luck story of a stolen wallet and requested a loan of £30, which would be repaid as soon as he got home (there were other embellishments). I declined to help him. A few weeks later, I read an article by the Editor of the ‘YOU’ magazine in the ‘Mail on Sunday’ relating exactly the same story (she was kinder than me and no, she was not repaid).

Kate says:
21 January 2021

I am 73 years of age female and this is how I deal with callers to the door. My doors are always locked. If I hear the doorbell I either look out the lounge window or bedroom window. If I don’t recognise the caller, and am not expecting anyone, I either don’t respond – or I open the bedroom window and ask why the call. On two separate occasions this year I had a) someone offering modern coverage of external walls b) someone offering to clean roof tiles and guttering of moss. I did not engage in their explanations, persuasions or debate.
I politely rejected both offers and closed the window. I would never open a door to an unsolicited caller.

LESIA says:
21 January 2021

Why hasn’t everybody learned your sense by our twilight years I will never understand. Well done!

last year my wife received a phone call from a couple who had visited her elderly and very vulnerable sister, and found two foreign looking men in the house. Her sister informed the friends that the 2 men were charity workers who were collecting money to help needy people in their own country. They heard them say they were so grateful for previous money she had donated. We immediately contacted the police and the her sister’s bank. The police visited her sister but she had not believed them saying the men were “nice people”. The bank could not help as the sister had made a withdrawal in cash. It is believed that her sister had handed over around £10000. my wife has spoken to her sister on the phone, but she still refuses to believe the men were criminals and gets very heated and refuses to speak about it. the police were very good and kept us informed,. We’ve informed the bank that my wife’s sister is vulnerable but they say they cannot prevent her sister from withdrawing more money. We just hope that should her sister wish to withdraw more money they will ask her what it’s for and try to persuade her to be very careful, but there seems to be no way of protecting her. We have asked the bank to ‘flag’ her account and be watchful.

Powers of attorney give a person or persons authority, known as attorneys, to look after a person’s affairs from finances to healthcare. An ordinary power of attorney is the most basic type and allows a person with mental capacity to put another person in charge of their bank account.

Powers of attorney need to be given while the donor understands the purpose of the power of attorney and the scope of the authority it confers on the attorney. Leaving it until people have started to lose some of their mental capacity can be too late, but equally people must not be placed under any undue pressure to create the power of attorney. Maintaining a good dialogue with relatives as they move into later life is highly recommended and “sooner rather than later” is best. The power of attorney does not have to be exercised with immediate effect and it requires the attorney to do all they can to assist the donor to make their own decisions so far as possible. Mental capacity is not an easy concept to deal with and needs a lot of thought.

If someone lacks mental capacity – and this is often not foreseeable, a brain injury for example – then you can become their deputy and look after their financial and/or health affairs.
https://www.gov.uk/become-deputy
A lot of good information is given here
https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/practical-support/managing-someone-s-affairs/different-ways-of-managing-someone-s-affairs-in-england-and-wales

Brenda Coxall says:
22 January 2021

This might be a good time for the family to apply for Financial Power of Attorney

Good point, Malcolm. Applying to become someone’s deputy could be a good way of helping without the potential complications of a power of attorney. However, unlike with a lasting power of attorney, a deputy must consider the subject’s level of mental capacity every time they make a decision for them – they cannot assume it’s the same at all times and for all kinds of things.

Brenda – The family cannot apply for the power of attorney on someone’s behalf, the donor of the power has to create the power themselves of their own volition; they can, of course, be recommended to take that step.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a complex legal arrangement that creates a Deed [which the parties must sign in the presence of witnesses and be authorised by a Certificate Provider] which then has to be registered with the Court of Protection before it takes effect.

An amendment to the last paragraph of my preceding comment: LPA’s have to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian, not the Court of Protection.

The CoP makes decisions on a range of questions and applications that arise from Lasting Powers of Attorney.

A few months ago a girl came to the house supposedly collecting money for Battersea Dogs Home. I spoke to her through the window, she was very pushy and wanted to come in and discuss our donation. I am pretty sure they wouldn’t be sending out collectors several hours away in the middle of a pandemic.

I told her she shouldn’t be knocking on doors during Covid in a ‘no cold calling area’. She apologised and left but carried on down our dead-end road.

Powers of attorney give a person or persons authority, known as attorneys, to look after a person’s affairs from finances to healthcare. An ordinary power of attorney is the most basic type and allows a person with mental capacity to put another person in charge of their bank account.

Powers of attorney need to be given while the donor understands the purpose of the power of attorney and the scope of the authority it confers on the attorney. Leaving it until people have started to lose some of their mental capacity can be too late, but equally people must not be placed under any undue pressure to create the power of attorney. Maintaining a good dialogue with relatives as they move into later life is highly recommended and “sooner rather than later” is best. The power of attorney does not have to be exercised with immediate effect and it requires the attorney to do all they can to assist the donor to make their own decisions so far as possible. Mental capacity is not an easy concept to deal with and needs a lot of thought.

John R says:
21 January 2021

Our Village was one of the first to have “No Cold Calling” – and featured in Which? some years ago. We have notices in windows or on doors or both. If I get cold calling (now rare) I report it both to the police, if aggressive, and Trading Standards (per the cardboard backing to the notice). There are signs on all entrance roads to the Village saying that it is a “No Cold Calling Area”. I point out my own notice and mention the signs to get rid of cold callers. It is very clear that groups of door to door “Salesmen” are dropped off to “work an area” selling shoddy over-priced goods. If it’s anyone else, I get their card to use when reporting to Trading Standards.

The number of cold callers at my house has definitely reduced, almost to zero, since I put a No Cold Callers sign in my windows. Definitely recommend doing that. And I’ve set my mobile to block all calls from numbers not in my contacts list. I just need to find a way to block foreign call centres now!

RogerH says:
22 January 2021

Surely if you’ve blocked numbers not in your contacts list this must include foreign call centres, especially as nowadays they usually clone UK numbers.

We were visited by 2 men wanting to clean the roof they had ten neighbours who are having it done.They didnt give us a price they said they would divide the price when they’re finished. My husband just said no thank you and closed the door. He is an ex policeman so we never get anything done at the door.

I have a policy of never doing anything at the door. Callers accept this.

I agree with previous poster LyndonRoy that the key issue in dealing with this is how confident you feel. If you don’t feel confident, the best course is to terminate the conversation as swiftly and peremptorily as you can manage, and close the door!

But I’ve usually engaged with cold callers sufficiently to get a sense of what they’re offering. If it’s the like of roof repairs or tree pruning, they get short shrift, since I’d want some evidence of competence and an impartial recommendation before engaging someone for work of that sort. But I have bought from some of them when I’ve liked something that they were offering.

A Slavic bloke with an eye defect came long ago to our last house flogging what he asserted were his own individually hand=done pencil drawings. Conceivably they might have been his own work, but they were clearly photocopied! But no matter, because at a glance you couldn’t tell the difference. So I bought an exquisitely drawn sketch of a hare crouched in a field surrounded by grass and wild flowers, which hangs on our bedroom door to this day.

And on another occasion I purchased an oven cloth from a bloke who said that he’d recently come out of prison and was flogging stuff door to door as the first step in his rehabilitation – as he said a few of them were dropped off from a van in different places every day, probably a ‘Nottingham knocker’! But the cloth looked solid and sturdy, and proved to be just that: it’s lasted us years and has stoutly withstood the inevitable hard wear and tear and burns that such an item inevitably suffers.

And both for what I felt was a reasonable price for what was on offer. My experience at least has been that cold callers aren’t always bad!

Had one of the “just out of prison guys” wanting to sell goods. Told him been caught before by rubbish products and no thanks. Courteous exchange by both sides and none of the usual abuse.

Olivia Martin says:
22 January 2021

I received one such call yesterday 21st January, it was someone selling double glazing. I was slow to respond and only answered the doorbell because I saw a retreating back wearing a red jacket of a similar colour to the postman. Thankfully I have a glass porch and he spoke from the garden path, after hearing his words regarding double glazing I politely said no thanks and waved him away.

I went on line looking for a roofer as a tile had blown of with the wind it was only the front tile that really was only decorative ,I got through to a company and they told me they would get someone in my area ,received a call to say that they had someone and he would be coming round ,he arrived in a posh large van,he came in no problem he said he took 10 mins as my neighbour’s were watching they say it had taken him longer to get the ladder of the van than putting the tile up ,then he said any other jobs and I said I have two holes that need filling ins I had to take a small cupboard down to get a new fridge freezer in he said okay he went away for the stuff ,now my husband is terminally I’ll and I am waiting for him to come home next day, they arrived and he now had two other men ,they got busy putting the fillers in the holes and he said now the price is wait for it £500pounds I said that is to expensive for what you have done ,he said that’s the price I said well I don’t have that amount of cash in the house he shouted to one of the men to put me in the van and take me to the cash line I said I can’t get that amount of money out at one time you will need to come back he said rubbish get her in the van now I am terrified, he got me in the van got the money and I have never seen them again ,but the next day I had a CHARITY that was helping me as I had no family hear she came to the door and asked if I was okay I started to cry and I told her what had happened she said leave it with her sae called the police ,the police arrived they knew who they were they are travelling people so I am supposed to go to court I have told them to drop the case my husband has died and I just could not go through this ,but the police comes around at night to see I am okay they have been wonderful but they are watching them ,so my advice never get anyone that has not been recommend by friends or neighbour’s I am nearly 80 years old and I would hate this to happen to anyone especially the elderly.

In the past we’ve needed a builder for roof repairs and pointing, and as we knew of no one in that trade in the area where we were then living I posted a message on three local internet community forums asking if other posters on the site had had positive experiences of local builders and were willing to make recommendations.

A couple of local builders were recommended to me in response, and we picked a guy who had recommendations from two different people. We found him thorough, competent and reasonably priced. Other people’s positive experiences are generally a good guide.

People saying they just happened to be going by and noticed roof damage and they would do it for a discount.There was of course no damage.

A phone call yesterday asking had I ordered an eye pad (or similar) from Amazon, using my Visa I stated no. I enquired how, and do they know who the culprit was. They said they could find it via my computer – asking me to go into this ap’ and so on, doing as she said. I became suspicious when she said click off the internet access. I told her I would check with Amazon first, she was very insistent that it would only take a couple of minutes more and she was from Amazon. I clicked off, rang Amazon. They said they would never contact anyone by phone! I’m not computer savvy and not stupid, but I must admit she was very convincing, and it was a British phone number she rang from –
Tele 01245257851

01245 is Chelmsford, Essex, and surrounding area.

But the scammers are really in India and can generate fake caller ID’s.