WEST FIFERS have been urged to be vigilant amid a surge in doorstep fraud. 

Trading Standards Scotland is urging people to 'Shut out Scammers' after the consumer watchdog revealed that between December last year and May this year, a total of £34,000 was lost by 33 households across the Kingdom.

Now the organisation is running a nationwide campaign with Police Scotland designed to raise awareness about the risks of accepting work offered by cold callers.

In one incident, conmen in Dunfermline offered to do gardening work for a pensioner, including cutting trees and tidying the lawn for £350.

He paid in full and left for an appointment. When he returned, the men had left without doing any of the work.

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Councillor Maureen Chalmers, chair of Trading Standards Scotland’s governance board, said: “Scammers are constantly adapting their tactics to take advantage of people, especially when many households in Fife are struggling to make ends meet with the cost-of-living crisis.

“So, it is more important than ever to remain vigilant and be on your guard. With our campaign and van, we aim to equip people with the tools and confidence to spot scams effectively."

Scams include making bogus claims to be working on behalf of the government with fake subsidy offers, or with local councils.

The warning follows increasing reports of incomplete or unsatisfactory roofing, gardening, or driveway work.

Figures revealed that the average amount lost over the six-month period was £1,043, with one person ripped off to the tune of £5,000 for unfinished landscaping work.

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In each case, rogue traders cold-called the occupiers and offered to carry out work related to roofing, gardening, driveways or general maintenance.

They charged upfront before either leaving without completing the work or not starting at all.

Shocking examples include a cold-caller who visited a Fife woman’s home, offering to clean her gutter for £150, which she agreed to. The man then suggested cleaning the moss off her house and garage roofs and painting the window frames for an additional £2,200.

She paid, but he only worked for 2-3 hours, cleaning half of the garage roof before leaving. Over the next few weeks, he made excuses for not returning, such as family illness.

The woman requested a refund, but it was never given.

Cllr Chalmers continued: “We urge consumers not to deal with cold callers and to seek local traders who have been vetted by Trading Standards and who have made a commitment to treat customers fairly via approved trader schemes.

“Do plenty of research into companies before agreeing to any work being undertaken, remembering that online adverts can be misleading and that reviews can be faked.

“It is advisable to check at least three different review sites and to get more than one quote for a piece of work.

“We are also asking people to look out for family members, friends, and neighbours and to report any suspicious behaviour to stop the scammers in their tracks.”

You can find reputable local traders at www.approvedtrader.scot.

Anyone caught out by a scam or suspicious activity should report it using the national advice service Advice Direct Scotland’s tool, or contact 0808 164 6000 for support. 

Victims of fraud should report it to Police Scotland on 101, or 999 in an emergency.

As part of the campaign, a scam awareness team has been visiting different parts of Fife, including Dunfermline High Street and Cowdenbeath.