Knowing what to look out for is the first step in protecting yourself from getting ripped off by scammers at your doorstep. While many of the scams are not new, consumers can lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Common scams include:
Asphalt paving scams – Spring and summer is prime time for paving scammers. If someone knocks on your door with a super deal, let them know you are going to shop around and check their company with the BBB. Get their full company name, address, phone number, website and insurance information. Ask for a business card and a written estimate. Ask for and check local references. Legitimate firms will have no issues with these requests.
Magazine sales – A young person may appear at your door selling magazine subscriptions. They will lead you to believe it’s a great deal but the prices can be as much as three times the regular price. Whether you pay with cash, check or credit, you may receive nothing in return. Check with the BBB before making a purchase from an unknown seller at your door.
Utility slam – Companies hire salespeople to knock on your door and tell you they can save you money on your electricity or gas bill. They’ll ask to see your bill so they can point out all the ways they can help you save. Their goal is to switch your service provider. In many cases, they’ll offer a low introductory rate, then jack up the price months later. Even if you don’t to agree to anything, if they see your account number they can switch you to a different company without your permission.
Home repair scams – Someone offers to do yardwork or make repairs in or around your home. They take a cash payment up front … and never return. Always take time to make decisions, get information in writing, obtain several estimates and check with the BBB.
Alarm system scams – Scam artists comb neighborhoods looking for signs posted in yards warning that the home has a security system. They knock on the door and tell you your system needs to be upgraded. Once inside they give you the bad news that the system cannot protect you against today’s modern theft techniques and offer to “upgrade” your system. They then disconnect your service provider, install a system from their company and lock you into a multi-year contract.
Storm chasers – Severe spring weather can leave behind hail-damaged roofs. Fraudsters known as “storm chasers” follow the storms and represent themselves as roofing contractors. They go town-to-town, door-to door, taking money for work, underperforming or not performing at all, and then moving on to the next town before the homeowners can get their money back.
To protect your money, property and personal safety follow these tips:
- Do not let anyone come into your home unless you have a prescheduled appointment.
- Don’t show your bill to anyone who comes to your home claiming to be with a utility company or other service provider.
- Confirm any necessary work, upgrades or special offers with your service provider, using the number on your bill or their website.
- Never sign any agreement when you feel pressured to do so.
- Do not sign anything that you have not read thoroughly.
- If the cost is $25 or more you must be informed of your three-day right to cancel. If they don’t do this, assume it is a scam.
- Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem. Otherwise, pay by check. Never pay in cash.
- When hiring a contractor, always check out the company report with BBB.org or by calling 414-847-6055and deal only with reputable local contractors.