/ Scams

Beware scam Green Homes Grant social media adverts

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. 

Which? News: Beware Green Homes Grant scams

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’.

Enforcement action

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.

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?. 

Comments

I think it would be helpful to readers who are unfamiliar with marketing-speak to explain what “lead generators” are and how they operate. They are not necessarily scammers but the bad ones feed the scammers or might set up scams themselves. Are there any guidelines to help people to tell the bad sort from the good (?) ones.

To avoid confusion with the metal, “lead” is pronounced ‘leed’ in this context.

I had to look up this term. If I wanted to take advantage of the Green Homes Grant I would look it up (Julie has provided a link) and make my own arrangements.

For at least a couple of years now, I regularly get calls to say I qualify for loft insulation under some government scheme. It is usually the same well-spoken person who calls.

I have told him many times we already have loft insulation, but he still calls.

Recently, his tact has changed….

He says he is working from the renewable energy database, and people who have made home improvements will be on that list. The installation has been deemed to cause condensation and mould in some properties. It also comes to their attention that our loft has not been surveyed since the installation and he wants to arrange a survey there and then that will be free of charge.

We bought our loft insulation locally and installed it ourselves, so will not be on any database!!!

James Bryant says:
12 October 2020

I am also very suspicious of telephone calls in relation to the government scheme and have indicated my wish to be informed in an alternative manner which allows for proper verification. We have recently had loft insulation as part of a process for a dust free and temperature controlled storage area from a reputable and trusted company. As such we don’t feel we need any further intervention.

Diane Ansell says:
14 October 2020

I had a phone call yesterday from 01184 278380 asking if I had received Green Energy information through the post. The caller knew my name. When I said I hadn’t received it, the caller offered to explain it because ‘they weren’t allowed to send it again through the post because of present circumstances’. She explained that windows would be replaced with high quality windows and the old windows recycled. I said I would reply to that number if I was interested. She offered a better number which I did not take.
Is this number a scam? I looked it up and it said ‘neutral’.

Re: Smartstone Energy Solutions.
This is a scam organisation that takes your data and repeatedly tries to get you to electronically sign a “DocuSign” document. DocuSign is legitimate. The use of the service by Smartstone is most certainly not! All they are after is your agreement to perform a totally unnecessary survey using cheap labour which will tell you that unless you need cavity wall insulation (Which they can arrange) or spray foam loft insulation on the underside of your roof (Which is the core business of the company) you can get nothing in practice. These basic level improvements will then take up most of your supposed “grant”, leaving very little “grant” over to do anything such as replacing windows.
Your data will be entered into an algorithm without your consent and they will claim that they have records of your actually non-existent grant application and the inherent survey thereto. The survey has to be paid for in advance. At no time will they return your calls and the excuse is that they are too busy to answer the phone from their upmarket central London address.
The algorithm requesting cash from the “applicant” has proven to be unstoppable so far.
AVOID! AVOID! AVOID!

B Horsfall Turner says:
17 October 2020

in west wales – therefore not eligible for the Green Homes deals I am repeatedly ( yesterday twice in same day) getting phone calls – and landline dialling code means fraudsters etc know its not in england – regarding loft insulation

David Cruickshanks says:
17 October 2020

These criminals are currently the #1financial and mental health threat to members of our communities.
It is the most prevalent crime, bar none, that blights the lives of all our citizens and must be the highest priority of all our governmental agencies to hold these criminals to account.
Each and every one of us receive multiple communications on a daily basis attempting to commit fraud.
Awareness of current criminal fraud activities is welcomed.
However, why are numerous businesses allowed to provide, for a fee, UK telephone numbers to overseas criminal clients?
Why does the UK public not have visibility of the prosecution of these criminals, irrespective of their country of origin?
Nothing is ‘too difficult’, just apply the moral courage to extinguish this blight on UK citizens’ lives.