Scams and doorstep crime

Useful information about scams and doorstep crime

What is doorstep crime?

Many scams don’t involve face-to-face contact, but sometimes the conmen come to your door. They could be pretending to be from the water board, power company and even the police. Some might claim they just happen to be working nearby, and have spotted a small problem with the house that can be easily fixed. They then often say they’ve found more problems, and the final bill can be enormous.

Four steps to protect yourself

We encourage residents to help reduce the amount of doorstep crime in the borough by following four simple steps.

1. Display a ‘No uninvited traders’ sticker – on a flat glass surface on or adjacent to your front door. Even if you feel secure dealing with uninvited traders, if enough stickers are displayed locally, doorstep criminals will be deterred from operating in the area. Also encourage your neighbours to do the same.

2. Don't deal at the door. If someone does knock at your door offering goods or services, please decline to deal with them immediately. If they are advertising ‘local services’ of interest, such as gardening or window cleaning, you can always ask then to leave details and then do some checks to ensure they are reputable.

3. Be informed. There is guidance on this page that will help you navigate your way through the surprisingly hazardous process of arranging home maintenance or improvement work. Have a read if you are planning work.

4. Look out for your neighbours – especially the vulnerable ones. Doorstep criminals have nothing against the elderly, single women, or the differently abled. But they are often easier to get money out of through a mixture of misrepresentation, outright lying and intimidation. If you see anything suspicious, discretely intervene to check your neighbour is okay, or report it to or to 020 8753 1081.

London Trading Standards guidance

Our work in this area is partly coordinated by London Trading Standards, who give guidance on spotting these rogues. It’s your home – with the right precautions, you can keep it safe.

London Trading Standards run an initiative called ‘Don’t deal at the door’ that provides useful advice and ‘No cold calling’ stickers that can be displayed to discourage such traders. A leaflet is available on the London Trading Standards website to read or download, and you can browse the main London Trading Standards project page.

Please email or call us on 020 8753 1081 if you want a hard copy or one of the stickers.

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What is a scam?

Scams are schemes designed to cheat you out of your money. There are a range of scams that can target consumers and businesses, at home or work, and come in the form of a letter, email, telephone call, or a text message.

You can be targeted:

  • through the post with offers of prize draws, claims you have won a lottery, and false invoices
  • over the phone with advertising schemes and offers to reduce tax
  • through your computer with viruses or false offers to remove viruses that don't exist
  • by being offered loans by fake lenders, who ask you to pay fees up front via Western Union or similar
  • by being misled when buying goods on the internet
  • through fake sites or by selling fake goods.

Check out the Metropolitan Police's Little Book of Big Scams (pdf 2MB) for more information.

Recognising scams

There are so many different types of scam, it is difficult to list them all. If you think you have been targeted by a scam ask yourself these questions:

  • was the offer unsolicited?
  • does it look too good to be true?
  • do I have to send money up front? 
  • do I have to respond immediately?
  • do I have to make a purchase to win a prize?
  • do I have to ring a premium rate phone number? 
  • do I have to give my bank or credit card details?
  • do I have to send the money to a PO Box number? 
  • do I have to send money by bank transfer? 
  • am I asked to keep it confidential?

If the answer to any of these questions is 'yes', you may be the target of a scam. The chances are that once you have sent money, you’ll never see it again.

Reporting scams

Call Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133 to report scams and receive advice. 

You can also report scams on the Action Fraud website, which has lots more information on popular scams.

Avoiding scams

  • Register with the Mailing Preference Service online to cut down on unwanted direct mail that is addressed to you, or call 020 7291 3310.
  • The Royal Mail has an opt out scheme allowing you to choose not to have materials, such as letters addressed to 'The Occupier', put through your door. 
  • Register with the Telephone Preference Service online to cut down on unwanted phone calls, texts and SMS messages, or call 0345 070 0707.
  • Forward spam texts to your mobile provider – 7726 for Everything Everywhere (O2 and Orange), 37726 for Three, 87726 for Vodafone.

Protect yourself against identity fraud

  • Shred documents with your name, address or financial details.
  • If you receive an unsolicited email or phone call from what appears to be your bank or building society asking for your security details, never reveal your full password, login details or account numbers. Most banks will not approach their customers in this manner.
  • If you are concerned about the source of a call, hang up and call your bank, or whoever is supposedly calling you, on a legitimate number printed on your bank statements or other documents.
  • Check statements carefully and report anything suspicious.
  • If you are expecting a statement and it doesn’t arrive, tell your bank.
  • If you move house, always get Royal Mail to redirect your post.
  • Notify your bank immediately of any unusual activity on your account.

For more advice about online safety visit the Get Safe Online website.

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