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Doorstep fraud

Bogus tradesmen, door-to-door sales or doorstep fraud involves fraudsters trying to scam you after knocking at your door.

Legitimate doorstep selling involves someone selling you goods or services in your home or on your doorstep. Many honest businesses use this technique – but so do fraudsters.

Buying on your doorstep can be convenient. However, a salesman who uses clever tactics can pressurise you into buying something you actually don’t want or something that’s poor value for money.

Door-to-door frauds can take many forms, including:

  • pressure selling
  • unfair contracts
  • overpriced or substandard home maintenance or improvements
  • phoney consumer surveys
  • bogus charity collections.

Such frauds involve promoting goods or services that are either never delivered to you or are of a very poor quality. Fraudsters may also bill you for work that you didn’t agree to. There are specific laws about door-to-door sales. Many are required to give you a ‘cooling-off’ period (where you can change your mind or request your money back). Bogus tradesmen will offer none of these, and even if they do, you can be sure their ‘guarantee’ will not be honoured.

Bogus salespeople will provide false identity or contact information, making it impossible for you to identify or contact them. If you’ve paid them in advance, you won’t get your money back.

Even if your bank or insurance policy covers any loss, you’ll still have to contend with a damaged credit rating, continued correspondence over a prolonged period to repair the damage, and the emotional distress and anxiety identity theft can cause.

Also, be wary of opening your door to a potential burglar or someone who wants to get inside your property to enable other people to break in. Once they get through your door, fraudulent salespeople can take note of your valuables and any security measures you have in place.

Are you a victim of bogus tradesmen fraud?

  • You’ve bought faulty, overpriced or substandard goods or services from someone knocking at your door.
  • You’ve paid for these goods or services by credit or debit card.

What should you do if you’ve been a victim of bogus tradesmen fraud?

  • Report it to Action Fraud.
  • You can report the salesperson to Consumer Direct by calling 08454 04 05 06 or to your local Trading Standards Authority if you believe they have sold you faulty, inferior or overpriced products or services.
  • Similarly, you can seek advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau about the terms and conditions of any agreement or contract you may have signed.
  • If you’ve made the payment by credit/debit card or by cheque, contact your credit card company and/or bank and advise them that you’re a victim of improper door-to-door sales techniques and your identity or financial details may have been compromised. They’ll advise you on cancelling payments and ensuring your finances remain secure.

Protect yourself against bogus tradesmen fraud

  • Always ask for identification before letting anyone you don't know into your house.
  • Check credentials, including a permanent business address and landline telephone number. The mobile phone numbers given on business cards are often pay-as-you-go numbers which are virtually impossible to trace.
  • Take control by asking the questions. Ask for references from previous customers or to see examples of their work.
  • Don’t sign on the spot – shop around. Get at least three written quotes to make sure you’re not being ripped off.
  • If in any doubt, ask the person to leave or call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06. (Consumer Direct works in partnership with local Trading Standards Authorities).
  • If you’re suspicious, why not ask the salesman if you can take their photograph – on your mobile phone, for example? If the person is legitimate, they probably won’t mind.

If you do decide to buy:

  • always get any agreement you make in writing
  • beware when filling in forms or when speaking to the salesperson, that you don’t reveal confidential details that a fraudster could use to assume your identity or take control of your finances. This may allow a fraudster to steal money from your account or order goods and services in your name
  • usually, you have a seven-day cooling off period. So if you decide to cancel the contract, act fast
  • think very carefully about having any work done or goods delivered during the cooling off period. You may have to pay, even if you change your mind.
  • never pay for work before it has been completed, and only then if you are happy with it.