Warning to households over cold-callers offering free ‘toxic mould’ check

Fraudsters tried to scam a retired teacher out of £7,000 claiming she had mould in the attic

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Households are being urged not to be wary of fraudsters claiming to check for “toxic mould” into their homes, after reports of cold-callers targeting deprived areas.

Trading standards said cold-callers have been offering “free” surveys to check for mould, particularly in socially deprived areas, but then pressuring home owners into paying an “admin fee” of £50 to £250, which they claimed was necessary to secure a government energy-efficiency grant.

They 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 charged excessive amounts - often thousands of pounds - to carry out work, such as installing spray foam insulation, which they claim has “mould-killing qualities”. The work is unnecessary and of poor quality that 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. They pressured her into taking out a loan and directed her online, but were stopped after the bank spotted signs of a scam and cancelled the transaction.

Households are also warned against attempting to arrange surveys by text and phone call - another tactic used by scammers. 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.”

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.

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.”

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