Scam calls offering grants for solar panels, loft insulation, spray foam, glazing and boiler replacement increased by 85% from August to September alone, National Trading Standards (NTS) has warned.
NTS said the analysis of scams blocked by almost 10,000 call-blockers installed in UK homes was a “sobering barometer of the onslaught faced by vulnerable people across the country”.
Those eligible for government grants are particularly susceptible to criminals claiming to be from accredited government support schemes, NTS warned.
NTS found that 64% of UK adults are either currently making their home more energy efficient or considering doing so in an effort to cut bills, and a third of people have been targeted by home improvement criminals.
Citizens Advice has also seen an 18% rise in complaints year-on-year, alongside a 28% increase in doorstep crime complaints.
Are you aware of scams in the news at the moment?
— FriendsAgainstScams (@AgainstScams) October 20, 2022
In response to the sharp rise in reported cases, NTS has dedicated a section on its ‘Friends Against Scams’ website to the cost-of-living crisis, with advice, resources and updates on the latest scams to watch out for.
Its survey found losing just £100 to a scam now would tip 24% of UK adults into serious financial crisis, leaving them unable to pay bills or buy food or other essentials.
Some 36% say they would buy fake goods, and of these 41% had never done so before.
However, NTS warned that counterfeiting was not a victimless crime, but damaged legitimate businesses and posed safety risks.
NTS chairman Lord Michael Bichard said: “70% of people told us they are more stressed about money than they were a year ago. This means people are more likely to be in ‘panic mode’ when making financial decisions – and this is what we see criminals capitalising on.
“Scams have always taken a huge toll on victims but now more than ever, people simply cannot afford to be ripped off.
“With living costs rising across the board, we are braced for a spike in doorstep and cold-calling crime, energy-related fraud and mass marketing scams as criminals target people trying to reduce their bills or take advantage of government support. We are also anticipating that the trade in fake goods will receive a boost that will put families in danger and cost society greatly in the long run.
“My message to the criminals exploiting people’s money worries is that they will not get away with it. Our teams are working relentlessly to identify and bring them to justice and I would urge the public to help us by reporting scams to Action Fraud or Citizens Advice.”
Matthew Upton, director of policy at Citizens Advice, said: “Anyone can be a victim of a scam and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed if you’re caught out.
“Reporting your experience gives us the best chance of fighting back and stopping fraudsters in their tracks.”
Victims of a scam should report it to Action Fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk/ or by calling 0300 123 2040.
For advice and information on how to check if something might be a scam, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.