We first warned about Green Homes Grant scams in July, but fake adverts are continuing to appear. Our guest from Trading Standards Scotland explains what to watch out for.
This is a guest post by Julie McCarron. All views expressed are Julie’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
In July, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the new Green Homes Grant which offered to give up to £5,000 in vouchers for homeowners in England for insulation and double glazing.
The aim of the scheme is to stimulate economic activity post lockdown in the energy efficiency market and in so doing, contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions.
As beneficial as the scheme is for some consumers and honest businesses, it has had the unintended consequence of providing a stimulus to lead generators operating at the less scrupulous end of the market.
Although the Chancellor’s announcement applies to England only, it nonetheless coincided with a surge of advertising posts on social media aimed at Scottish consumers claiming that ‘funds’ and ‘schemes’ were available to replace boilers, windows and roofs which Trading Standards believes are false and misleading.
Lead generators have been quick to recognise that although consumers have a general awareness that grants and incentives are available, they lack awareness about what these are, what goods they apply to and whether they are eligible.
Fake social media ads
Commonly these social media ads will give the impression of being from an energy efficiency advisory body ‘helping’ you by identifying whether you are eligible for free products or grants.
In fact, this is simply hooking you into parting with your personal details which they pass on to their unscrupulous clients.
Once you have parted with your personal information including your telephone number, you will usually receive a call.
You may be told that unfortunately you are not eligible for the grant, but they will offer you an equivalent ‘special discount’ if you sign up today. They then deduct the ‘discount’ from the over-inflated price they have quoted you for the product.
They may also suggest that a low interest government loan is available, whereas in fact they will sign you up for an expensive long term credit agreement.
Typically, there will be problems with your installation such as delay, poor workmanship and/or damage to your property. On top of all this, your personal details will be sold to other clients of the lead generator who will continue to bombard you with other ‘deals’.
In the last few months, in Scotland alone, Trading Standards has identified in excess of 430 different adverts of this kind on social media, the vast majority of which have been produced by just eight lead generators.
We are in the process of taking enforcement action against these companies which will include taking down adverts which we assess to breach consumer protection regulations.
We are also running a social media prevention campaign entitled ‘What They Say/What They Mean’ which exposes the misleading nature of the claims via twin ads.
If you live in Scotland, please follow Trading Standard Scotland on social media and share our campaign so we can spread the word to as many people as possible and prevent a scammer’s bounce back.
You've probably seen adverts similar to this one on social media. 👇
They often promote non-existent funding schemes or grants and are designed to collect your details and generate leads for companies who may go on to cold call you with bogus 'deals' #ScamShare #ScamAware pic.twitter.com/EYwHueFqya
— TradingStandardsScot (@TSScot) September 11, 2020
If you’ve experienced any detriment as a result of a misleading advert of this kind whether on social media or via an unsolicited call, please follow the link on our website to report the issue via our partners Advice Direct Scotland.
Have you spotted a suspicious Green Homes Grant advert? Let us know in the comments.
This was a guest post by Julie McCarron. All views expressed were Julie’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.