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Householders warned of cold-callers claiming to deal with toxic mould

Householders have been warned not to let “toxic mould” scammers into their homes following reports of cold-callers targeting deprived areas.

Trading standards teams say fraudsters have been offering “free” surveys to check for mould, particularly in socially deprived areas.

In some cases, scammers have then used pressure tactics to trick the householder into paying an “admin fee” of £50 to £250, which they claimed was necessary to secure a Government energy-efficiency grant.

The scammers then failed to return to carry out the work, and victims were unable to contact them to get their money back.

In other cases, the scammers have gone on to carry out work including installing spray foam insulation, which they claim has “mould killing qualities”.

They have charged excessive amounts – often several thousands of pounds – for poor quality and unnecessary work, which in some cases has been found to affect the mortgage-ability of the property.

In one case, a retired teacher in Glasgow was almost scammed out of £7,000 by cold-callers who told her they had found toxic mould in her attic.

The scammers pressured her into taking out a loan they had directed her to online, but they were thwarted after the woman’s bank spotted signs of a scam and cancelled the transaction.

In addition to cold-calling, scammers are also attempting to arrange surveys by text and phone call.

The scams follow widespread media coverage of the inquest into the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in December 2020 from a respiratory condition caused by mould in a one-bedroom housing association flat in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

It was announced in December that every housing association property will be checked for issues such as damp and mould and any problems fixed.

Awaab Ishak
Awaab Ishak, two, died in December 2020 after prolonged exposure to mould in the housing association flat where he lived (family handout/PA)

Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) chief executive John Herriman said: “As people worry about their energy bills during the cost-of-living crisis, many are cutting back on heating, which can lead to problems with damp and condensation.

“By cashing in on people’s legitimate concerns about mould and energy efficiency, scammers continue to plumb the depths of cynicism. They are exploiting elderly residents, parents, and anybody they think they can trick into handing over money under false pretences.

“Trading standards will continue to work to ensure that front doors will always remain closed to scammers, and those responsible for scams are brought to justice.”

The CTSI’s lead officer for doorstep crime, Katherine Hart, said: “Don’t engage with anyone at the door, and never invite a cold-caller into your home.

“If you are thinking about installing energy-efficiency or anti-damp measures in your home, make sure you check that the company you use is fully accredited and you know where to reach them if you need to.

“Similarly, never respond to offers of home repair work you receive via text or phone – in most cases these are sent by scammers seeking to steal money or personal details.”