Doorstep scammers commonly target older people. In fact, 85% of victims of doorstep scams are aged 65 and over according to National Trading Standards. We'll show you some simple steps that you can take to help you stay safe on your doorstep.
What is a doorstep scam?
Doorstep scams take place when someone comes to your door with the aim of scamming you out of your money or trying to gain access to your home to steal items from inside.
While there are legitimate tradespeople and officials, it’s wise to be on your guard when you answer your door. Doorstep scammers can be persuasive or pushy but also polite or friendly, and it can be easy to fall victim. It’s especially important to be vigilant and aware if you live on your own.
What are some common types of doorstep scams?
There are many different types of doorstep scams, and here are five you should be aware of.
- Rogue traders: A cold-caller may offer you a service you don’t really need. They may try to push you into agreeing to unnecessary home repairs or improvements, often at extortionate prices. A common tactic is when they claim to have noticed something about your property that needs work or improvement.
- Bogus officials: A common trick is when someone pretends to be from your electricity or gas company as a way to get into your home and steal from you.
- Bogus charity collections: A fraudster may ask you to donate money, clothing or household goods for a charity. In fact, this is a trick to steal money from you. Any items you give will be sold on. Legitimate charities must be registered with the Charity Commission and their registration details displayed on collection bags and envelopes. Check the registered charity number on the Charity Commission NI website.
- Fake consumer surveys: Some scammers ask you to complete a survey so they can get hold of your personal details, or use it as a cover for persuading you to buy something you don’t want or need.
- Hard luck stories: Someone with a hard luck story may come to your door and ask you to help them out with cash. The story they tell you is made up and intended to con you out of your money.
How can I protect myself from doorstep scams?
Don’t feel embarrassed about refusing to let someone into your home. Only let someone in when you’re absolutely sure that they’re genuine and you want them in your home.
Before you go to open your front door, make sure the back door and windows are shut and locked. Not sure? Don’t open the door.
- Put up a deterrent sign. You could put a ‘no cold callers’ sign up on your door or window, which should deter any cold callers from knocking on your door.
Download a free sign (PDF 236 KB) from Action Fraud
- Set up passwords. You can set up a password with your utility companies so you know that they are genuine if they send someone round. Phone your utility company to find out how to do this.
- Nominate a neighbour. Find out if you have a nominated neighbour scheme where a neighbour can help to make sure if callers are safe.
Contact your local Neighbourhood Watch or your local Safer Neighbourhood police team to find out more
- Don’t feel pressured. Don’t agree to sign a contract or hand over money until you've talked to someone you trust. Never feel pressured into giving money to someone you don’t know. Call the police if you think you’re being scammed.
- Don’t share your PIN. Never disclose your PIN number or let anyone persuade you to hand over your bank card or go to the bank to withdraw cash for a payment
- Check their credentials. You should always check a seller or trader’s credentials before agreeing to purchase their products or services. Ask for their identity card and check it carefully. Phone the company they represent – get the number from your phone book rather than calling a number they give you. Keep the numbers for your utilities services handy so you can easily call and check an official’s identity.
- Call the police. Finally, remember that you can dial 999 if you’re suspicious or the caller won’t leave. Call the police non-emergency number 101 if you’re not in immediate danger but want to report an incident.
What should I do if I’ve been a victim of a doorstep scam?
Scammers are constantly finding new ways to trick people and doorstep scams are changing all the time. If you’ve been the victim of a scam don’t be embarrassed to report it. It can happen to anyone of any age.
Report the scam to the police and contact Action Fraud. The information you give to Action Fraud can help track down the scammer.
Contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service for advice
Every year our Advice Service deals with thousands of calls from older people in need. Call us today to make sure that you are receiving all the help and support available to you.