Scam warning as change of season sparks doorstep calls

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LOCAL householders are being warned to beware of rogue traders set for a “springtime spree” of conning them out of their money.

The Scottish Business Crime Centre (SBCC) has said that vulnerable householders, particularly those over 60, are becoming the favoured targets of criminals who use the change of season to carry out doorstep scams.

Vulnerable householders, in particular those over 60, are increasingly becoming the favoured targets of criminals who use the change of the seasons into spring to execute doorstep scams.

These include the offer of discounted repairs and home improvements which can end up costing home-owners dearly as work is either shoddy or grossly overpriced. In some cases, callers gain entry to homes to steal cash and valuables.

The SBCC is fronting a new campaign to raise awareness of issues that can place older people at risk of financial harm.

As victims are often embarrassed to report the crimes, official statistics are hard to establish but a recent study by Citizens Advice Scotland found that its Consumer Helpline dealt with 421 cases between April and November last year of people reporting a cold caller looking to carry out work on their homes. Nearly 400 of these involved home maintenance or improvement, double glazing and insulation with 40 per cent of them involving complaints of sub-standard services totalling around £700,000.

Gary Ritchie, SBCC assistant director, said: “While we have long been plagued by bogus callers trying to get entry into houses, many criminals are now using the change of seasons from winter to spring as a ploy for their scams.

“Older people in particular are easily influenced by suggestions that their property has been damaged by winter weather or simply fall for smooth-talking scammers who sell them the concept of sprucing up their house in spring by having unnecessary repairs or refurbishment work carried out.

“People who try to complain or refuse to pay are threatened with violence or treated with abuse. In some cases, they have been made to walk to cash machines to make withdrawals.

“Crimes against people who perhaps don’t have the same capabilities or support to protect themselves as others is appalling and has no place in Scotland.”

He added that while the changing weather makes older people prone to approaches from rogue traders at the start of spring, homeowners should always be on their guard against callers who try to gain access to homes by imitating council officials, utilities representatives such as gas, electricity or water companies while others may even claim to be police officers.

The SBCC is currently forming a strategic multi-agency steering group to provide further advice, guidance and protection around those who are seen as vulnerable in this way through information exchange and early intervention including the development of a ‘Scotland against Scams’ initiative.

This group will consist of representatives from the Scottish Government, social work department, Trading Standards, police, banks, energy and utility companies.

For information about SBCC and to become a member: www.sbcc.org.uk.