Be on guard for bogus cold callers

Older people in Aberdeenshire are being warned to be on their guard against bogus callers and rogue traders set on a springtime spree of duping homeowners out of money.

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.

The criminals turn up to offer homeowners the attractive prospect of having discounted repairs and improvement work carried out on their properties to spruce them up as the weather starts to improve.

But the work is either shoddy or grossly overpriced – and in some cases the callers gain entry to the properties to steal cash and valuables.

The warning comes from the Scottish Business Crime Centre (SBCC), as part of a new campaign it is fronting to raise awareness of various issues that can place older people at risk of financial harm.

As victims are often embarrassed to report the crimes, authoritative statistics are hard to establish but a recent study by Citizens Advice Scotland found that their Consumer Helpline dealt with 421 cases between April and November 2012 of people reporting a cold caller looking to carry out work.

Nearly 400 of these cases involved home maintenance/improvement, double glazing and insulation with 40% of them involving complaints of substandard services totaling around £700,000 in charges to householders.

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 bogus callers who try to gain access to homes by imitating council officials, utilities representatives 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. The group will also consider how to tackle e-related scams and postal scams as part of their ongoing work.

This steering group will consist of representatives from the Scottish Government, Social Work Department, Trading Standards, police, banks, energy and utility companies.