Gourock couple lose £600 to boiler scammers

Tuesday 4 February 2020

A Gourock couple is counting the cost of a brush with a bogus boiler company which has left them £600 out of pocket.

The couple, who don’t want to be named, were initially approached by two women while they were loading their car in their driveway. The women asked the couple the age of their boiler. They claimed that the couple could get a ‘free’ boiler under an EU grant scheme but that they had to act quickly. They arranged for two sales agents, Tam and Craig, to call round and assess their boiler.

Councillor Michael McCormick, Convener of Inverclyde Council’s Environment & Regeneration Committee, said, “Cold calling is the hallmark of a scam. Be very wary if someone approaches you out of the blue, whether it’s in person, by phone or by email. You should also be suspicious if the person says you have to act quickly. Scammers don’t want to give you time to think or check if what they’re saying is genuine.”

Cathy (named changed) said, “The men looked at the boiler and said it was very old but that it could be replaced under an EU scheme. They said that we needed to pay a £600 deposit to get the grant process started but that we’d get that back. They took some details and then left.

“We did a bank transfer for the £600. The next thing we got a text from Tesco Bank saying our loan had been approved and paid into our account. But we didn’t apply for a loan. It was Tam and Craig but they never mentioned a loan or anything like that.

“This started us thinking and my husband took a long look at the receipt. There’s no VAT registration number and the street name is misspelt. It’s also someone’s home address.

“My husband called the number and spoke to Tam. He said, ‘You can’t expect to get something for nothing.’ He said the boiler was free but there was a £3,000 charge for upkeep for the next 10 years. Then he started to get nasty on the phone and said there was no way we were getting our money back.

“An engineer came round to fit the boiler on the Saturday. He was a young guy and he said he sometimes did boilers as a ‘homer’ for the company. He didn’t seem surprised by what had happened. He said, ‘I take it you weren’t fully informed then.’ He was nice enough but we sent him away.

“We were told the boiler cost £1,495 plus VAT but I found the same one on Amazon for £715 and that wasn’t even a trade price. Tesco has been good about the loan and we’ve paid back the money but we’re still £600 out of pocket.”

Councillor McCormick said, “In this case there is no EU grant, just a cynical attempt to deprive people of their consumer rights and con them out of £3,000 for a £700 boiler. Our advice is to always guard your personal details very closely. Tam and Craig clearly got enough information from this couple to successfully apply for a large loan in their names.

“And remember, if you enter into a contract over the phone, online or at home, you have 14 calendar days to cancel the contract under the Consumer Contracts Regulations. The cooling-off period starts the day after you agree to go ahead with the service.”

The women were active in the Bute Street area of Gourock and are described as being in their 30s. One of them had a strong East coast accent.

Advice and genuine information about the grants available for new boilers and other energy efficiency measures can be found by calling 0808 808 2282.

Local residents are also being warned about fake emails claiming to be from Inverclyde Council alleging that the person is due a refund. The emails contain a link which the person is asked to follow. These are not from the council.

Keep yourself safe from the scammers

  • Cold calling is the hallmark of a scam. Be very wary if someone approaches you out of the blue, whether it’s in person, by phone or by email.
  • Scammers don’t want you to think too much about what they are asking you to do. There will normally be some time pressure to act quickly to claim cash or secure a benefit.
  • Protect your personal details. Does your Facebook page tell people your date of birth, your pet’s name, your primary school? This is all information people often use as answers for security questions.
  • Competition wins, inheritance windfalls and offers where you have to pay an ‘admin’ fee to claim your cash or prize are usually a scam.
  • Your bank, building society or internet provider will never ask for your personal or security details.
  • Never follow a link in an unexpected email and never download or open attachments.
  • Never let someone have remote access to your computer.

Page last updated: 4 February 2020