A doorstep scam (or doorstep fraud) involves someone calling to your front door out of the blue, with the aim of tricking you out of money.
There can be an added pressure when dealing with someone face-to-face. This can sometimes be even more challenging than dealing with other types of scams, such as or . There are some honest doorstep sellers, but there is a fine line between a scammer and an unscrupulous trader.
Scammers usually have the gift of the gab and will try to smooth talk you with a convincing story. Or they might be pushy and intimidating, trying to get you to sign a contract or buy something you don’t want. Their main aim is to trick you out of money or gain access to your home to steal valuables.
Either way, the key is not to let them in, and report them as soon as possible. Follow our tips below to prevent doorstep scams.
According to Action Fraud, around £18.7m was lost to doorstep scammers in 2020, but it also believes that many of these offences go unreported.
Scammers often target older people for doorstep scams as they are more likely to be at home during the day, and scammers might find it easier to intimidate or confuse them. In fact, 85% of victims of doorstep scams are aged 65 and over, according to National Trading Standards.
Here are a few examples of common doorstep scams.
The scam: a trader will come to your home and offer to do some work for you at a special rate – this might be new paving or a new driveway. Another common tactic is to claim that you have a hole in your roof or your damage to your guttering – usually something that you can’t easily check yourself. They’ll say that it’s very urgent and put pressure on you to get the work done immediately.
The reality: it’s highly likely that they’ve made up the problem. They might pretend to fix it or do a shoddy job. They’ll then charge you an extortionate amount for the ‘work’.
The scam: a stranger (who might seem perfectly respectable and friendly) will turn up on your doorstep pretending that, for example, they need to use the phone because their car has broken down or their pregnant girlfriend is ill – they need a glass of water – they’ve lost their dog in your garden.
The reality: they’ll say anything to make you feel sorry for them and will take advantage of your good nature to help them. While you fetch the water or go to get the phone, they might pocket your valuables. Or they might work in pairs – while one distracts you the other will gain access to your home.
The scam: an official looking person with a uniform and ID badge turns up on your doorstep. They might say they are there to read the gas meter or conduct a survey for the local council.
The reality: their ID could be fake. They want to get into your home or trick you into divulging personal information that can be used for ID fraud.
The scam: usually carried out by young men, who go door to door selling household products. They carry a fake ID and claim to be recently out of prison or on probation, and claim that this is a legitimate rehabilitation scheme.
The reality: the household goods are supplied by a man (traditionally from Nottingham, hence the name) who employs them. A group of young men are dropped off to work an area, and then collected by the same man later that day. The knockers’ role is to establish where elderly or vulnerable people live, and this information is then sold on to other criminals. If they come to your door, the advice from the police is to phone 101 to report them. However persistent they are with their hard-luck stories, do not buy from them.
If you’re caught out by a doorstep scam, there are several steps you can take.
Report the incident to , the UK’s National Fraud reporting centre, who monitor and investigate cases of fraud. Speak to an Action Fraud adviser directly on .Alert your local police or Neighbourhood Watch so they can warn other residents that the fraudster is in the area.
Report dodgy salespeople to (who can pass complaints to your local Trading Standards authority) if you believe they have sold you faulty, inferior or overpriced products or services. Call the CA Consumer helpline on or .
If you buy something as a result of an unsolicited visit to your home, you have a legal right to cancel – but be warned that you might not be able to track down a scammer.
Remember, a genuine trader is highly unlikely to knock on your door asking for work. Stay in control of the situation by approaching traders yourself when you know work is needed. Follow these simple rules.