Doorstep fraud is where fraudsters try to scam you after knocking on your door.
They might be pretending to collect money for charity, or offering to sell you overpriced or substandard products or services, such as home improvements. In the case of rogue traders, they will call uninvited and offer to do some work on your roof, driveway or garden.
They will often say the work is urgent and will normally ask for immediate payment, even offering to go to the bank with you. Suddenly you may find the price has increased, or they have disappeared without finishing, or even starting, the work.
They may even pretend that they are working on your neighbour’s property and need access to yours to check a leak, or something similar. Once in your property they will spot something that needs urgent attention, and offer to fix it.
Pushy salespeople can try and pressure you into buying something you don’t need or want, or something that’s poor value for money. They will give fake contact details so it impossible to identify them or contact them afterwards. If you’ve paid them in advance, you won’t get your money back.
Distraction burglars work in pairs; one person may keep you at the front door while another one gains entry to your home from the side or rear.
Some scammers will try to obtain your personal details, such as your name and address, bank account numbers or credit card details, in order to use them later to order goods and services, or loans, in your name.
There were 17,264 reports of doorstep crime in 2014/15, but this could be as low as 1% of cases. 65% of doorstep scam victims were aged 75 and over.
The Office of Fair Trading estimates that victims of rogue doorstep sellers lose, on average, around £2,500.
Advice for householders
The problem is that many legitimate companies and charities also ply their trade door-to-door. So how can you protect yourself against doorstep scammers?
DON’T BE A SCAM VICTIM!
Trading Standards advise all householders to NEVER BUY GOODS AND SERVICES ON THE DOORSTEP.
Keep your front and back doors locked, even when you are at home.
Install a ‘spy hole’ or electronic viewer in your front door so you can see who it is before you open the door, or a door chain.
The safest thing to do is simply not to answer the door to anyone you are not expecting.
However, if you do answer the door, and you don’t know the person, just say ‘no’. Tell them you have a friend or relative who can sort out any problems. If they persist, tell them to leave or you will call the police.
Don’t be fooled by sales talk such as:
“We’re working around the corner and noticed a loose tile on your roof”
“We’re in your area and it’s a special price if you agree today”
“I’ve just done a job for your neighbour”
“We’ve got material left over from another job”
Remember – reputable traders don’t need to knock on doors to get work.
Trading Standards advise that you should only use tradespeople that have been recommended to you by people you trust, or pick one from the ‘Approved Tradespeople’ leaflets that are distributed by local councils.
If your doorstep visitor is claiming to be fundraising for charity, check that the charity is genuine by looking online for their phone number and calling the office to check the collection is real. Never check their authenticity using phone numbers provided by the collector.
If you’re in any doubt at all, just ask the person to leave.
It’s not rude to ask someone to leave. Here are some things you can say to get rid of callers on your doorstep:
“I never deal with cold callers at the door, please would you leave.”
“I have a neighbour who helps me, so please go and knock on their door first.”
“I don’t know who you are, so would you please leave.”