Warning for households in this winter as millions targeted by scams
Households are urged to be vigilant against cold callers, suspicious messages and rogue traders this winter after it emerged two-thirds of adults were targeted by scam texts or calls in the past three months, according to Ofcom*.
Winter is a particularly dangerous time for scams as people spend more time at home, increasing the likelihood of fraudulent telephone calls getting through, whilst Christmas is used by scammers to target shoppers.
There are also concerns that households may be lured in by promises of cheaper heating prices in the colder months from scammers or ‘quick fixes’ from unqualified tradespeople, potentially putting them at risk of shoddy work in the home and expensive repair bills.
In response, OFTEC, a registration body for off-gas grid heating, is raising awareness of the types of scams taking place and how households can protect themselves from unscrupulous activity. These include:
- Rogue traders. As the winter approaches, an increased number of unqualified individuals may impersonate heating technicians or other tradespeople. Their work can lead to unsafe heating systems and expensive repair costs. If you need your boiler serviced, make sure the tradesperson has the right accreditation and ID documents, particularly if you are asked to pay for services in advance. Use a technician who is GasSafe (for mains gas) or OFTEC (for heating oil or solid fuel) registered as they have undergone professional training and are regularly inspected to ensure they are following best practice.
- Telephone scams. A survey in September found that almost a million people had been misled by a message or a call they received*. This typically involves scammers pretending to be from a bank or HMRC. If you receive an unexpected or suspicious call, do not share any financial or personal information and hang up immediately. If you have any concerns about a call you have received, contact your bank directly.
- Text scams. As with telephone scams, text scams will often ask for card details and offer HMRC tax returns. Your bank and HMRC will never ask for personal information via text, and grammar or spelling errors can be a tell-tale sign that the message is not genuine. UK residents can report a scam text message by forwarding it to 7726 - the numbers on the keypad with the letters for ‘spam’.
- Email scams. Avoid clicking on links from unknown senders as they may contain viruses or direct to you to a fake website, designed to look official. You should also keep your web browser and antivirus software up to date to help alert you if you attempt to visit a fraudulent website.
- Social media scams. With Christmas approaching, it’s important to be wary of fraudulent advertisers posing as legitimate retailers. Despite being advertised on reputable social media platforms, these adverts can be attempting to steal your payment details. Read reviews and consider the products and price points displayed – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: “Unfortunately, winter is a prime time for scammers and rogue traders to take advantage of Christmas shopping and the drop in temperature. It’s incredibly disheartening to see the number of victims of fraud increase.
“We should all be wary of unexpected phone calls, emails and text messages as well as strangers at the door. Fraudsters often try to pressure you into making a quick decision, so don’t hesitate to take a step back and consider whether an offer is genuine. If you do need a tradesperson to undertake work in your home, make sure they are appropriately qualified and check their ID badge upon arrival.
“For oil households, if you have any concerns about a heating technician, contact OFTEC directly for advice and support.”
For more information, visit www.oftec.org.