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The scam that is London damp surveys

The scam, and how they do it...

Over the last few months we have watched as the damp industry tries to contain its rapidly disappearing market.  Damp surveys in london are the last resort of this fraudulent industry.  The way that the PCA - or Property Care Association - markets itself, and members is a major concern to us and other organisations like the RICS. London, Surrey, Middlesex, the Home Counties and the South East is the prize market. It has the highest concentration of old, solid walled, and breathable houses in a small area of the country as a whole.  It has the highest concentration of Listed Buildings. It is a captive audience.  If you are selling damp surveys, you want to do damp surveys in London!

This is how they try to do it:

It is all about marketing and websites.  Get a load of crooked money, and throw it at a London based marketing agency like one owned and run by Liz Male who runs Trustmark.  This is a part Government organisation that attempts to give credibility to the PCA. The marketing and PR agency then writes lots of cheap websites - each one only has a couple of pages. They all say the same thing: "We do Damp Surveys in London. We are independent.  We do Independent Damp Surveys. We do specialist independent surveys. We give impartial advice on rising damp, penetrating damp, dry rot, and woodworm. We have industry recognised qualifications of CSRT and CSSW. (Of course Richard and Pete dont, because they are worthless and are not recognised by anyone other than the PCA). There are lots of photos and videos of REALLY SCAREY dry rot outbreaks, photos of woodworm, and woodworm beetles, longhorn beetles, powder post beetle, and serious discussion about remedial measures needed.  The sites refer to equipment they use - in particular they want to make sure that everyone knows they only use resistance or 'damp meters' - but if you want really scientific analysis we can use a calcium carbide meter, and here's lots of detail about one".  It is clearly intended to impress people with scientific jargon. 

They will also talk a lot about the need to use a "Specialist contractor (Insert the word fraudster here) who is a member of the property care association and they will also try to make you aware of the need for very important (and fraudulent) insurance backed guarantee (because the same people own the insurance company and never pay out).

The last part of the chain is to have lots of links to each other.  The marketing and PR company sits down and registers websites in every conceivable name with all possible permutations of damp, london, and independent. We've seen things like 'damp survey london' 'london damp survey'' independent specialist surveys' 'london damp', 'timber and damp surveys' - dot com, dot co dot uk - you get the picture.  It's called link scamming, and google doesn't like it.

Another thing we've seen them do is to trawl the social forums.  One of their members poses as someone with a damp problem wanting advice.  Another supposedly neutral person says 'Oh - I just had that problem and Mr so and so was wonderful - he came out and gave me a completely unbiased opinion, and said there was no damp proofing needed, and all we needed was a ventilation fan' - and HERE IS A LINK TO HIS WEBSITE.  The scammers have just managed to plant a link into a public forum which is gold dust to google search engines.   You can imagine what happens next:  Some poor person with a real problem reads that forum thinking they are going to get the lovely man who doesn't do damp.  He comes, sucks his teeth, and promptly recommends PCA contractors to do a massive overkill of damp proofing that is completely fraudulent.  

It's very clever really, but the London Damp Surveyors have been rumbled.

The last unpleasant link in the chain is visibility. Do they have a real address?  Never. We've followed a daisy chain of addresses, companies, and ownership - and it all leads back to a legal/accounting dead letter address in London, where according to Companies House, many hundreds of companies are registered.  These people, and their websites need to hide.  They don't have a visible, honest home or office address. There are no photos of the people who do the work.  If you contact them it is via a link.  The response says 'we will have a surveyor contact you'.  

So that's the story really.  It is exactly what we would expect from a bunch of crooks. What is perhaps a bit more surprising is that it is so brazenly obvious.  Did you know that to be a chimney sweep you have to have a properly recognised national accreditation? The London damp survey crowd have nothing - they turn over millions a year in fraudulent 'business', and hardly anyone even blinks an eyelid.

Luckily, a number of MP's and social justice campaigners are beginning to see what is happening.

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