July 24th, 2014
Summer in Spain inevitably brings an unwelcome visitor– the bogus gas inspector, preying on those who are enjoying their relaxing holidays. Like all the best scams, this one evolves from an element of truth. In Spain, mains gas supply is relatively scarce, so supply is usually by bottled gas- and the pipes and apparatus must be inspected every 5 years by law.
The scam works as follows: a ‘representative’ usually wearing a uniform and carrying a clipboard turns up unannounced, to carry out a ‘compulsory gas inspection.’ An ID may be fleetingly presented; and even forced entry into your property attempted. After a brief inspection, the gas installation is condemned, and the financial pain commences. Several recent cases we have heard of have involved charges of between 300-500 Euros for replacement of an out of date pipe, yet all the ‘inspector’ did was dust the pipe- usually actually in need of renewal, so still left in a dangerous state.
Any official company would make an appointment to carry out an inspection, and their employee’s ID should be offered for thorough examination. The two principal companies dealing with gas supply in Spain, Repsol and Cepsa, may contract out the inspections to authorised companies. Your local Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) should be able to tell you who is authorised to carry out gas inspections in your area. Make a note of the name of the company and contact details, so you can check that your gas inspector is legal.
If you have any doubts at all, refuse entry and do not sign anything. If your uninvited caller refuses to leave, threaten to call the Police. This will usually see them on their way. Sometimes these conmen operate in pairs- one of them ‘casing’ the property with a view to burglary either then or at a later time; whilst the other one carries out the ‘gas inspection,’ thus perpetrating two scams in one.
Some very obvious, but worthwhile precautions are:
1. Never allow any
casual callers into your home.
2. Do not sign anything until it is fully understood; and the service provider verified.
3. Never allow unsupervised access to your home.
4. For official matters, always ensure you speak a common language or have an interpreter present.
Legitimate company representatives or tradesmen will not object to your verifying with their office, and the vast majority of (legitimate) Spanish companies operate an appointments based system anyway, so you should always receive advance notice of any inspection visits.
Another property services related scam in Spain is operated by genuine but unscrupulous employees of official companies. They may seek to sell other services (eg. insurance or fumigation services). Sometimes an up-front deposit is requested for bogus add-ons. Any such offers should be carefully scrutinised and never agreed to on the spot, without further investigation/ consultation.
These crooks (when dealing with Spanish and non-Spanish alike) capitalise on supposed ignorance of householders- so be aware of the scams, to ensure that you are not separated from your hard earned Euros!