Warnings of a raft of scams targeting households over lockdown

Households in Shropshire are urged to be vigilant against cold callers, suspicious messages and rogue traders after a growing number of new scams have emerged during lockdown.

An OFTEC technician
An OFTEC technician

The warning comes after it was revealed over £4.6million was lost to scams during the first lockdown, with reports of fraudulent cold calls increasing by nearly 50 per cent compared to the previous year.

There are also concerns that households struggling financially during the pandemic may be lured in by promises of cheaper prices from scammers and 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 during lockdown and how households in Shropshire can protect themselves from unscrupulous activity. These include text, telephone and email scams as well as those on social media.

Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC said: "Any text message which asks for your card details to claim government grants are fraudulent and should be deleted immediate and 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 provider directly.

Dangerous

"Over 11,000 people believe they have fallen victim to a ‘phishing’ email during lockdown which seek to obtain personal or financial information. Avoid clicking on links as they may contain viruses or direct to you to a fake website,

"Social media scam are particularly dangerous because they can be accidentally shared by a friend or family member which might make you think they are legitimate. Be wary of adverts or posts for schemes or products which offer a high financial reward with low risk. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

Mr Farrow also warned against rogue traders.

"If you need your boiler serviced, make sure the tradesperson has the right accreditation. 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. Remember, there are strict rules on tradespeople in the home, including social distancing, so ensure these are carefully followed."

“We should all be wary of ‘out of the blue’ 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.”

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