Britons are being urged to watch out for fraudsters posing as the energy regulator Ofgem to offer free boilers.
According to consumer champion Which?, victims typically receive a cold call, email, text or doorstep visit from someone claiming to represent the regulator and asking for their bank details.
Which?’s Faye Lipson said: “Cover stories used by the con artists include helping you switch to a cheaper provider or tariff, or offering a grant or a free new boiler and other energy efficiency upgrades in your home.”
Ofgem warned on its website: “[We] would never sell you energy, ask for personal information or come to your property. If you have given any of your personal information like your bank details, contact your bank immediately for help.”
Ms Lipson added: “Never simply hand over your personal or bank details. Always pause and take five minutes to think about how to verify what you’ve been told using trusted contact details. A genuine representative wouldn’t mind you doing this.”
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This is just one of many energy bill scams circulating. Another common scam, according to Action Fraud, involves fake pre-payment meter offers.
Fraudsters have been knocking on doors offering half-price energy on pre-payment meters, but in reality, this can result in significantly higher long-term costs for the household.
Action Fraud explained: “Criminals use cloned keys to top up energy credit illegally. People are offered a cut-price deal on their doorstep, for example, £50 of electricity meter top-up for a cash payment of just £25.
“However, energy companies detect that they have not received payment for energy used, and the customer ends up paying for the energy twice – first to the fraudsters and then to their energy company.
“The perpetrators of these electricity scams are believed to have links to serious and organised criminal activity, and electricity companies are urging their customers not to get involved.”
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According to the scam watchdog, more than 110,000 households have been affected by this crime already.
Action Fraud urged: “Never buy your electricity from someone who knocks at your door. Electricity companies do not sell electricity top-up door-to-door. Always buy your electricity from official outlets – PayPoint, Payzone and The Post Office.”
If someone falls victim to this scam, people should report it to Action Fraud and contact their energy company immediately to let them know what’s happened.
A report from UK Finance revealed criminals stole a staggering £580million through unauthorised and authorised fraud in the first half of 2023. Further research by interactive investor found that found eight percent of its nationally representative sample had lost money to a financial scam in the past three years.
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According to the findings, younger people were more likely to be victims, with 15 percent of respondents aged 40 or under losing money during that period.
Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at interactive investor, commented: “The latest UK Finance figures show that the battle against the scourge of financial scams is hard fought, with the amount lost through financial scams falling relatively modestly on a year-on-year basis.
“Financial scams are like the multiple-headed hydra from Greek mythology, where every time one scam is exposed, many more emerge in its wake. Recent history has seen the evolution of cons, notable impersonation and romance scams, which have a significant financial and emotional toll on victims.
“The harsh reality is scams have become a begrudge part of everyday life. Any progress made in stemming the tide of financial scams is welcome – and the silver lining is there has been a significant uptick in the amount returned to victims.
“The hope is the Online Safety Bill will go a long way in stamping out financial fraud, but the onus remains also on individuals to avoid falling prey to financial fraud – there is no getting away from it.”
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