Beware of door-to-door scams and salespeople
Most people think of residential crime as something that happens at night, when it's dark or when we're away from our homes. But sometimes, the biggest threats can come right to your front door, in broad daylight.
All over the United States, homeowners fall victim to common scams and deceptive tactics used by door-to-door sales people and burglars. Often pushy, combative and, in some cases complete liars, these door-to-door con artists usually claim to be representatives of the companies you use for utilities, cable TV or other services.
Common approaches used by these fraudsters:
- Someone claiming to be a technician for your home security system, claiming that your system is not working properly or that the monitoring company has gone out of business (in an attempt to convince you to switch providers).
- Claims that you aren't receiving the lowest rates for your electric, gas or cable service, and that you must sign right away to lock in a new low rate before it goes up.
- Claims that you're due for your "yearly complimentary system check-up" – in which con artists gain access to your home to survey your security system and then strike at a later time.
In some cases, these people are actual independent sales contractors who are paid commissions for convincing homeowners to switch to a new utility, security or cable provider. Since they are not directly employed by the companies paying them, they have no hesitations about using extremely aggressive and deceptive tactics.
In other cases, they are not real salespeople at all. They are con artists, looking to take your money – either right at the door or by burglarizing your home at another time.
Tips for spotting and preventing fraud:
- Know that no legitimate security company, utility company or cable company will ever send a technician or other rep to your home announced – especially for the purposes of making changes to your account or gaining access to your home. Except for obvious emergency situations (for example, power lines that have fallen on your home during a storm), you will be notified of such visits by mail.
- If you're genuinely interested in what a door-to-door salesperson is offering, ask for more information in writing, or a website you can visit. These days, any respectable company would be happy to refer you to a website for more information. Be suspicious of any person who doesn't have further information on paper or online, or is pressuring you to make a decision on the spot.
- Check backgrounds and references. Never take what a door-to-door salesperson says at face value. Ask for identification and contracts. Research the companies in question to ensure they are legit and well-rated.
- Never sign or agree to anything in-person. Don't assume you have to "act now." If it's a real offer, and something you genuinely want, contact the company directly by phone to confirm if it's legit and learn how to take the next step without pressure.
- "We don't want any." If you're ever unsure about the intentions of someone at your door, simply don't answer it. Or, if you do, politely decline and promptly close the door.