During the warm summer months, many scammers take to the streets in order to comb neighborhoods. These con men often go door-to-door to employ a myriad of different tricks to steal your money and personal information. Better Business Bureau® of Central Oklahoma warns now is the time for consumers to be on their guard. Here are some of the most common summer door-to-door scams people encounter:
Home repair scams: Someone offers to do yard work or make repairs in or around your home. It’s a cheap deal and all they’re asking for is an upfront payment, what can go wrong? He or she takes your cash payment and leaves you with a terribly done job, or just flat out disappears. Furthermore, some scammers try to start work on a house and then fake an injury in order to pursue a workers compensation claim or legal action against the homeowner. BBB always recommends to check to make sure any contractors you are considering hiring are properly licensed and have a current workers compensation and liability insurance policy in effect.
Alarm System Scams: Scam artists, who often times actually work for alarm company sales, are constantly on the lookout for homes with signs posted in their yard stating that they have a security system. This specific brand of con man knocks on your door to tell you that your system needs to be upgraded, or else it won’t be able to properly protect your home from danger. But, instead of “upgrading” you, they actually disconnect your system and install their own company’s system, while also tricking you into signing a multi-year contract. These scams are incredibly dangerous and pricey, so keep a sharp eye out.
Magazine Sales: This scam is usually run by younger people who come to your door with a magazine subscription offer. Often times it’s touted as a good deal, but in reality you’re paying triple the price of a normal subscription, and after you pay them in cash/check, you never receive anything in return.
Utility Scams: Many companies hire door-to-door salesmen who come to your door to tell you that they can find ways to actually save you money on your electricity or gas bill. This sounds like a kind and helpful gesture right? Well, they’re actually there so they can see your previous bills and memorize your account number. They aren’t there to save you money, they’re really just trying to get you to switch carriers. They’ll most likely offer an unbeatable low starting price then jack it up a few months later. The worst part is, if they do happen to remember your account number they can take it and switch you to their company without your permission.
Storm Chasers: Summer is the season of home repairs, and in Oklahoma it’s especially common to see “storm chasers” or fake roofing contractors that appear soon after bad weather to offer cheap storm damage repair. These con artists will happily take your money and under perform or ditch the job, leaving you with the same amount of damage and less money to your name.
Now that we’ve introduced you to the most common types of door-to-door scams, here’s a few pointers to help you protect yourself if you ever encounter one of these schemes.
Do your research. If someone comes to your house with any type of service or product, you can always tell the person that you’re interested, but to come back another time. You can use that time to find out their Business Review on your local BBB website, in order to confirm if they’re legitimate or not.
Ask them for their solicitation or peddler credential identification. Excluding the occasional candy sales, most cities in Oklahoma have some form of credentialing for door-to-door peddlers. Officials in several cities have developed regulations designed to protect residents and ensure proper permitting or licensing for those selling products or services door-to-door, so ask them for a copy or permit/license number to ensure they are operating legally.
Don’t succumb to pressure. If a salesperson is making things uncomfortable by pushing the sale a little to hard or forcing their sob story onto you, it’s alright to tell them to leave your property. If things escalate and you feel threatened, go inside and call the police.
Never pay in cash, or upfront. If you’re paying for a service, it’s a much safer plan to pay after the service has been completed, that way you know their work will be held accountable. It’s also smarter to avoid cash payments, because cash is easy to pocket and run off with.
Make sure you get everything in writing. It’s crucial to make sure that any business deal you make with a salesman is completely fleshed out in writing, that way you have every step of the transaction in ink. It’s an easy way to make sure that you’re protected from unexpected fees or scams.
Contributed by Cade Snowden, Marketing and Community Outreach Intern
Cade Snowden is a senior studying business Marketing and Finance at the University of Oklahoma. He is a resident of Allen, Texas, and a graduate of Allen High School. He enjoys writing about business tips, industry reports, and watching his favorite television show: Game of Thrones.