Ding dong – beware of doorstep scammers

Fraudsters are using new scams related to the pandemic to target people on their doorstep, according to an investigation by consumer group Which?

Scams include offering fast track testing and vaccines and collecting donations for bogus charities. Rogue traders have also used lockdown as an opportunity to revive traditional scams such as offering shoddy gardening or building services.

A survey of 1,186 Which? members in February 2021 found that 16% had received unsolicited visits from someone claiming to be a charity worker or salesperson since the start of the first lockdown. 

According to data from Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, £18.7 million was lost to doorstep crime in 2020 though it is feared the figure could be much higher. 

The number of reports to police for this type of fraud in April 2020 was 46% lower than at the same time the previous year but by the summer of 2020, with fewer restrictions to stop fraudsters from going out, reports of these in-person scams had returned to pre-pandemic levels. About 85% of victims of doorstep scams are aged 65 and over, National Trading Standards has said.

SW&A is sharing this advice from Which? to help you protect yourself from doorstep scams:

  • Always be suspicious of anyone turning up uninvited.
  • Place a sign in the window near your front door saying that uninvited callers are not welcome.
  • Don’t let strangers into your home. Keep your doors locked with the chain on. Ask to see ID cards and call the company to see if they are genuine and look up the company number yourself rather than trust the number on their ID card. 
  • Set up a password with your gas and electricity providers so that you can be sure callers, such as meter readers, are genuine – only genuine callers will be aware of your password. Call your utility company to arrange this.
  • Consider smart security devices like smart doorbells which incorporate a camera and can enable you to speak to a caller without opening the door. Some can also send a message to a relative notifying them that you have a visitor.
  • If you’re suspicious, ask the caller if you can take their photo on your mobile phone. Then send it to a close friend or relative. If the caller is genuine, they probably won’t mind.
  • If a caller is persistent and refuses to leave, call 999. If you are suspicious, but not in immediate danger, call 101 – the police non-emergency number.