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New campaign to raise awareness of rogue traders and doorstep scams in the Highlands

By Alasdair Fraser

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Highland Council is joining the campaign against rogue traders and doorstep scams.
Highland Council is joining the campaign against rogue traders and doorstep scams.

A month-long campaign warning of the dangers of bogus and rogue trader crime will be backed by Highland Council and Police Scotland’s Highlands and Islands division.

The nationwide Shut Out Scammers campaign is being staged throughout May to raise awareness of doorstep crime and other trading scams.

Highland Council trading standards will be issuing a series of social media prevention messages on the issues.

Trading standards team leader Mark McGinty said: “There are two main types of doorstep criminal to look out for.

“Some offer overpriced and/or substandard home maintenance improvements such as window/gutter cleaning, path and driveway repairs, roofing or building work, gardening and tree lopping.

“Others try to get into your home or obtain personal details by pretending to be someone from organisations such as the council, police, market researchers or utility and phone companies.”

Victims of bogus callers and doorstep crime are often unaware the crime has been committed, or they feel so embarrassed that they are unable to report it.

Some fear a loss of independence while facing financial uncertainty in the future.

Mr McGinty added: "Doorstep criminals remain a serious problem.

“Many are affiliated to serious organised crime groups. They are adept at gaining the trust of unsuspecting consumers and tend to target the vulnerable and elderly members of our communities.

“With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions and permission being given for trade work to recommence, it is the perfect opportunity for unscrupulous doorstep criminals to pounce.

“Doorstep crime instances can have a devastating and lasting effect on victims from damage to home and property and financial loss that impacts heavily on their health and emotional wellbeing.”

Shut Out Scammers brings together organisations to help minimise risk and prevent harm to vulnerable and older people from criminals who commit doorstep crime.

It operates as a preventative initiative and encompasses engagement work with the general public, as well as enforcement activity to target criminals.

Police Constable Scott MacColl, a prevention and interventions officer, reminded people to “take five” to stop and think before parting with your money or information; challenge potential criminals not be embarrassed to say ‘no’; and protect themselves by contacting their bank immediately if they think they have fallen for a scam, while reporting it to Action Fraud.

He said: "It’s never easy to spot a bogus caller and anyone can be a victim of household scams.

“Be wary of cold callers at the door and on the phone, scammers are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. If in doubt, check their credentials, a genuine person won’t mind.

“You can phone the company they represent or check online, but never use contact details they give you.”

Anyone wishing to have work done on their property or garden, is advised to obtain three quotes from reputable traders.

These quotes will allow a better understanding of the amount of work that is involved in doing the job, it will give confidence that the person doing the job is capable and it will indicate how much the job will cost.

Highland residents are being urged to report doorstep scams to trading standards via Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or visit ScamWatch.

Further information can be found by visiting the Highland Council Trading Standards COVID-19 website.

Anyone who thinks they have been scammed by a doorstep caller or wishes to report suspicious activity in the area, should call Police Scotland on 101.

If you wish to remain anonymous you can provide information to Crimestoppers on their website at crimestoppers.uk.org or call them on 0800 555 111.

People can also sign up for alerts sent to mobile phones or email, indicating any illegal activity ongoing in their area.

Visit Neighbourhood Watch Scotland at www.neighbourhoodwatchscotland.co.uk for more information.

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