Elderly woman 'chased for thousands' after being targeted in insulation scam

Jana Bennett, 85, said she was pressured into installing costly spray foam by a surveyor who said it was 'urgently needed.'

An elderly widow was chased by a company for thousands of pounds she has refused to pay after being targeted in a home insulation scam.

Trading Standards Scotland said a soaring number of insulation scams are being reported as rogue traders exploit homeowners trying to cut their energy costs.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service confirmed it is investigating incidents reported by the body and looking into potential criminality.

Jana Bennett, 85, said she was mis-sold spray foam insulation after being contacted by a company for a free home survey.

She claimed the man who visited her home told her the existing insulation was causing lethal black mould that should be removed as soon as possible, showing her a video purported to be of her loft.

He said it likely contributed to the sudden death of her husband, who had cardiovascular disease, and that it may have worsened her asthma.

Jana, who lives in East Ayrshire, paid a deposit amounting to £776 and was being pursued for the full balance of £5,129.95.

The company, who STV News has chosen not to name, has since refunded her deposit.

“The man was very charming and told me it was very urgent to have the insulation,” she said.

“I felt he was badgering me. He said he was concerned about me and this terrible mould.

“He came at about 2.30pm and didn’t go away until about 8.40pm at night.

“The next day I thought I wanted a couple of days to think about it and phoned the boss. He told me the men were round the corner and would only be an hour.

“I don’t know what possessed me to say okay. It was all very fast.”

The insulation installed in Jana's loftSTV News

Jana contacted Home Energy Scotland after growing suspicious and discovered the company did not work in partnership with the Scottish Government.

She was also told spray foam insulation is not recommended for the loft as it can prevent proper ventilation.

“I was told not to give the company another penny,” she added.

It comes amid a soaring number of insulation scams being reported as rogue traders exploit homeowners trying to cut their energy costs.

Trading Standards Scotland warn there has been an increase in reports of online adverts, cold callers and rogue traders offering misleading information about the availability of grants and funding for energy efficiency incentives.

Several complaints have been received from people who were cold called and offered a ‘free’ loft survey.

Dishonest companies, who often claim to work with local councils or Home Energy Scotland, the Scottish Government’s impartial energy advice service, tell consumers that they are eligible to receive government or council funding for products such as insulation, boilers and heating systems, but ask them to pay for the products up front or take out a loan.

Those who agreed subsequently discovered that the ‘surveyors’ were in fact salespeople who tried to pressure them into buying spray foam insulation.

There have been several reports of homeowners having difficulty trying to sell a property, take out a mortgage or release equity from a property with foam insulation.

The spray foam can result in damp due to lack of air circulation and can cause roof timber to rot.

Jana contacted Trading Standards, who took a statement and advised her to write a letter to say she would not pay the remaining balance as she was mis-sold the foam insulation.

Jana's loft insulation being inspectedSTV News

A day later, she said the manager called her and threatened to take her to court if she did not settle the balance.

He also claimed that his team would come to her home to remove the foam from her loft if she did not pay.

“I said ‘excellent, bring it on. I look forward to my day in court with you,'” she added.

“I said if men came up and started throwing their weight around I will be calling the police.”

Two weeks later, Jana said a man called her posing as a representative from Trading Standards to inform her the company were accredited and that she must pay the remaining balance.

She contacted the watchdog again, who confirmed no one with the man’s name was employed there.

She said: “I do feel more vulnerable being a woman on my own after the sudden passing of my husband, but I think it’s made me wiser.

“I was never a person who entertained cold callers. I thought I was too smart to be scammed, but there you are.

“I’m happy to speak about it if it stops rogue companies fleecing other people.”

Trading Standards submitted a report to the Procurator Fiscal on 29 August 2023. The report remains active and under consideration, including further investigation.

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