How to avoid doorstep scams

Posted September 1st, 2021 by SimpliSafe

How to avoid doorstep scams

You may be thinking these kinds of scams don’t happen anymore, but unfortunately, they do, and anyone can fall victim to a doorstep scam. Take a recent report by Trading Standards UK, which shows that in England and Wales, around 17,000 doorstep crime reports are recorded every year. And it may not be a surprise to know that 85% of doorstep scam victims are aged 65 or over. It’s actually estimated that this figure is lower than what it actually is because of low reporting rates. That’s why it’s important to follow our guide on how to avoid doorstep scams so you can be more aware of what to look out for. 

What can a doorstep scam look like?

Fake charity collecting

Don’t be fooled. Fake charity collectors like to pull on people’s heart strings and this is one of the most successful scams due to people wanting to be kind and falling for a story, especially when it comes to the older generation. These scammers may be after any household item, clothes or money, fooling you into thinking whatever you’ll provide will be donated to a good cause.

How to avoid

Don’t be afraid to question and ask for the charity number so you can check it online. Any legitimate charity will have one that can be checked on the government’s Charity Commission website. It’s a good idea to contact the charity to check if they are sending out people for collection duties. And, of course, you don’t have to donate and can politely refuse. 

A prepayment energy meter scam

This involves a scammer disguising themselves as a representative of an energy company to gain access into your home. They may offer a discount - such as £50 worth of energy for £25 pound - and can use cloned keys to top up meters that were installed before April 2011 whilst the homeowner pays them the £25. As energy companies can detect when full payment has not been received, the full £50 charge will be issued, meaning that the victim still has to pay twice, to both the scammer (£25) and the energy company (£50). So you may think you’re getting a good deal, but unfortunately, it’s a scam! The scammer walks away with money in their pocket, and you’ll end up having to pay more to the energy company. 

How to avoid

You can avoid this one by simply knowing and remembering that energy companies never do door-to-door sales. If someone does turn up, make sure to contact the company they are claiming to represent. You should also only make top-ups from official Paypoint and Payzone outlets.

Bogus officials

Be careful of who knocks on the door pretending to be someone of authority. A bogus official may take the identity of a council worker. By taking on these disguises, these scammers manipulate you into divulging personal information that they can use or pass on; and they may even take the opportunity to steal from you when they’ve gained access.

How to avoid

Fortunately, many companies have a password scheme for you to check if they’re legitimate or not. If they are the real deal, they’ll be cooperative. A scam like this could look like someone coming in to check on a ‘gas leak’ you have. Just be calm and collected, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Check their credentials and remember that if this was a real case, the police or fire department would often accompany them. 

Rogue traders

If you are visited by anyone offering random services, like fixing a gutter, or offering some gardening, just be mindful. They can lie and try to charm you into paying for a service you actually don’t need. They will offer a quick fix for an inflated price, and often want cash up front.

How to avoid

Firstly, it’s a good idea anyway to check your property frequently to see what needs monitoring or fixing, so you have the full knowledge. This can also help with any rogue trader scams, as you’ll know straight away if they’re fibbing and trying to pull the wool over your eyes. If they’re offering to do a job quickly and want cash, chances are the job is going to be of very low quality, and you should never be rushed when it comes to your property. Ask for credentials, contact details, website info, and look out for their vehicle to see if there is any branding on it. You can always ask for a business card, contact details, social media details to go away and think about it and do your research.

Fake consumer surveys

These scammers often work in towns and city centres, but they can also turn up at your door. They’ll ask you to fill out a survey and will appear overly friendly. But don’t be conned here. The fake survey is just an excuse to collect your personal details. That’s the sole goal. They may pass on your details to other fraudsters. It’s also a way to find out more about your property, and they may ask to come inside - an easy way to gain access to steal.

How to avoid

Find out the purpose and more about the company or charity behind it. If they are genuine, they won’t mind you checking them out online first. But, do be mindful that they may be using legitimate organisations to represent, so it’s a good idea to contact the organisations to check about any surveys going on. That’s if you’re interested in doing one, as you can always politely decline.

A hard luck story

We all like to help people in need, and that’s why scammers use a hard luck story for their criminal goals. It can look like an emergency situation, where someone turns up at your door claiming they need help, like using your phone, the bathroom, or some rest; and they’ll probably have an elaborate story to go with. It may be a ruse to gain access to swipe any loose change, car keys, or expensive items in your house: a quick in-and-out job.

How to avoid

This one is tricky to detect. Nobody wants to reject someone in their time of need or in an emergency, but what you have every right to do is ask questions, even if they are trying to rush you, to make sure things add up. It’s important to remember that they can stay at the door and outside of your property whilst you help them. You can allow them to use your mobile rather than a landline, but make sure you don’t hand it to them and ask them to provide the number for you to dial and put it on speaker, or you can contact the emergency services for them. 

Do what you can to keep them from entering your property, unless of course, you are very certain that it’s a real emergency or they have real injuries etc. Stay with them at all times, and call your family members or anyone who can help to come over to help with the situation if you live alone. If they keep trying to get you to go upstairs, or out of the room, then they may be trying to steal something. If you don’t budge, they should soon get tired of trying and will want to get out of there before any emergency services turn up. And make sure to call emergency services if you feel in danger, even if you have already contacted them.

With a SimpliSafe Panic Button and a professionally monitored alarm system, pressing your Panic Button will trigger an alarm whereby our monitoring centre will call to check you are ok and request police dispatch when an incident has been visually verified on SimpliCam

What should you do if you’ve been a victim of a doorstep scam?

It’s crucial that you report it. It’s estimated that there are more scams going on but people aren’t reporting them. This can be down to embarrassment or people feeling like it isn’t worth it. It doesn’t matter how small you think the scam is or if it happened a while ago, every report will help with investigations. You may want to report on behalf of any eldery or vulnerable people if they need help, so make sure to check in on any relatives or neighbours and ask about any suspicious visitors. 

You can report any scams to Action Fraud, but you can also report cases to or get advice from:

And to help with investigations, outdoor security camera footage is golden. Having cameras may even deter doorstep scammers in the first place. Indoor home security cameras can also capture any suspicious visitors or thefts, so it’s worthwhile updating your home security.  

For more information on how to improve your home security and to see what system would work for your property, contact SimpliSafe today.