Homeowners Face Green Scam Risk: Our Expert Advice to Stay Safe

New research from Citizens Advice reveals that over 19 million adults have been targeted by a green scam in the last year. The study also found that more than two-thirds of adults are interested in making their homes more energy efficient in the coming months, but 36% of them have already been targeted by scammers.

In the UK alone, an estimated 5.2 million people have been deceived by these green scams in 2021. Common methods of targeting include emails, phone calls, and texts, with older adults being more vulnerable to phone scams and younger adults being more susceptible to email scams. To combat this issue, Citizens Advice and the Consumer Protection Partnership are urging people to prioritize their safety when pursuing eco-friendly initiatives.

Citizens Advice not only assists those who have fallen victim to scams but also offers support in reporting these fraudulent activities to organizations such as Trading Standards. By providing evidence and intelligence on scams, they contribute to the ongoing effort to combat this issue.

As a recent example, Sheila, a 76-year-old from Nottingham, received a suspicious phone call from scammers claiming they could provide insulation using the Government Green Homes Grant Scheme. Sheila, being aware of these scams, contacted Citizens Advice to verify her suspicions. She recognized that these scammers often target vulnerable individuals and exploit them financially, causing significant distress.

Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, emphasizes the importance of protecting oneself when pursuing energy-efficient solutions. Scammers take advantage of individuals' desire to contribute to the environment, making it necessary for everyone to report scams and ensure they can find trustworthy traders easily. National Consumer Week, organized by Citizens Advice and the CPP in collaboration with Trading Standards and the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, aims to create awareness and equip consumers with knowledge to tackle unscrupulous scammers.

Business Minister Paul Scully acknowledges the significance of environmental-friendly actions, reminding consumers to be cautious of false energy efficiency and environmental claims that accompany scams. They support the campaign during National Consumer Week to educate and empower consumers to protect themselves from misleading practices.

Wendy Martin, Director of National Trading Standards, draws attention to criminals who exploit individuals' genuine intentions to contribute to environmental causes. She encourages individuals to report suspicious activities and participate in programs such as Friends Against Scams to stay informed and protected.

Jane Parsons, a consumer expert at Citizens Advice, provides five important tips for staying safe while pursuing energy-efficient home improvements:

1. Perform thorough research on companies and websites before making any purchases. Read reviews from different sources, request references, verify company details outside of their platform, and carefully review terms and conditions. If you get contacted via sms or phone, use a website like Who called to see if the phone number is legitimate.

2. Select traders recommended by certified schemes, such as TrustMark, which is the government-endorsed quality scheme.

3. Obtain written quotes and contracts. By gathering multiple quotes from different contractors and having written agreements, you can ensure a fair price and protect yourself in case of any issues or disputes.

4. Use secure payment methods like credit cards, PayPal, or debit cards that offer protection against scams. If engaging in major home improvement projects, consider paying in stages to minimize risk. Avoid upfront payments whenever possible.

5. Be wary and suspicious of scams. Scammers and rogue traders can be highly convincing, so take your time to make decisions and never feel pressured. If someone contacts you unexpectedly or uses aggressive tactics, it's likely a scam.

In the unfortunate event of falling victim to a scam, promptly contact your bank or card company if financial or sensitive information has been compromised or if a payment has been made. Citizens Advice provides comprehensive guidance on how to respond to scams and offers support for those who have been deceived.

Reporting scams or seeking advice can be done through the Citizens Advice consumer service. Offline scams, including telephone, post, and door-to-door scams, can be reported to the service or by calling 0808 223 1133. Online scams can be reported to the dedicated Scams Action service online or by calling 0808 250 5050. Text scams can be forwarded to 7726 (REPORT) to report them to your mobile phone provider. The scam can also be reported to Action Fraud at 0300 123 2040.