03 Jan How to avoid the door-to-door home improvement scammers in East Finchley
How often have you opened the door to a knock and found yourself face to face with someone offering to redo your double glazing or your driveway, or refurbish your home? It can be far more difficult to say ‘no’ to someone on your doorstep than over the phone or in an email, so many people – especially the elderly – allow them in and that can be the start of a nightmare situation. Trading Standards have recently reported a significant rise in home improvement scammers who are out and about looking for victims, so you have to make sure that you know how to spot them.
Here are our five steps to spotting and avoiding door-to-door home improvement scammers.
1. Check their basic business assets
Do they have a landline, a website that works (top tip is to use the Wayback Machine at https://archive.org/web/ to see how long they’ve actually had a website for), offices (they don’t have to have an office to be legitimate, but if they do have a base it provides a little more peace of mind that they won’t just up and leave you in the lurch), and if they are a limited company you can check address details and how long they’ve been incorporated for at Companies House at https://www.gov.uk/get-information-about-a-company
2. Check their basic professional assets
A professional firm of builders should have their insurance document with them at all times as it’s a logical question for a homeowner to ask, so ask to see it, take a picture and contact the insurance company to make sure that the policy exists (fraudulent, fake or expired documents have been used in the past by scammers).
3. Do a search
If you can find them at Companies House, you can get a view of their financial position. Seek them out on Checkatrade or other comparison/review sites (they should be very proud of their presence on them so ask which ones they are on, then search them all just in case there are horror stories they were looking to hide). Check out their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts (once again to get a truer picture of who they are and what people think of them) and finally do a wide Google search to see whether anyone else has had anything to say about them, good or bad.
4. Ask for a written quote
Never agree to a tradesperson starting work without first having an itemised, written quote with detailed costings and terms. Review this document thoroughly, seek out any ambiguities or missing information and ask for these gaps to be filled, in writing. If a scammer actually provides you with a quote it is likely they will keep their costs and what they will be doing for the money as vague as possible on the document.
5. Ask to speak to former customers (several of them)
Anyone can provide a fake review or testimonial – you’ll want to speak with former customers on the phone, or preferably face to face to see the work that the tradesperson/builder has done for them. If they are proud of their testimonials then they will share them, and if their customer is happy enough to provide a testimonial then they are likely to be ok with being contacted by prospective customers. Any hesitation from the company should be seen as a warning sign.
Having said all of that, there is one more thing to remember that trumps the lot of them. Never, ever, instruct a builder on the doorstep. This includes the warning to not let an unsolicited door-knocker into your home when you’re on your own, don’t instruct them on the spot, no matter how good the deal sounds and never let them start work, even if they are only going to be on your road that day. These are all signs of scammers. Legitimate professionals are unlikely to go door-knocking, but if they did they would expect you to do all the checks noted above before you let them over the threshold.