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When a Scammer Knocks: How Seniors Can Close the Door on Fraud

Published: Jul 31, 2012

In today’s digital age, con artists feel right at home online, trying to get us to click on their latest schemes.

But they also are still practicing their trade the time-tested way: Knocking on doors.

Comfort Keepers® offers some advice to share with seniors on how to defend against door-to-door scams:

  • Don’t let door-to-door salespeople in the house. Some con artists pose as salespeople as they look for burglary targets.
  • Refuse to do business with door-to-door salespeople unless confident they are locally-based. Ask contractors to present their license.
  • Never sign or buy anything on the spot. At least think about it overnight.  If a door-to-door salesperson says it’s a one-time offer, and can’t wait, it’s time to say, “No thanks.”
  • If visited by a home improvement contractor, be sure to get written estimates from other contractors. If the salesperson continues to push, say, “Goodbye.”
  • Ask for the salesperson’s credentials. Many communities require door-to-door sales permits. To double check, call the local business    permit office to make sure it’s legitimate.
  • Insist on references. Check them out on your own time, after the salesperson has left, because scammers often use partners who stand by for “reference” calls.
  • Never pay in cash. A check can buy a little time to stop payment if needed. Write checks to businesses, not individuals. Again, don’t buy on the spot.

If you have any doubts, call the Better Business Bureau (check www.bbb.org for the nearest office) or police department to see if they’ve received any complaints or have any information about the business in question. (But just because they haven’t received complaints doesn’t mean the salesperson is legitimate.) Get everything in writing.

Con artists pour on the charm and take advantage of senior citizens’ polite, trusting nature. Advise seniors not to allow a salesperson to make them feel guilty when he appears offended by their cautious approach.  After all, legitimate businesspeople understand they have to earn their customers’ trust. They take caution and skepticism in stride.

Also take note: Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule (http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0176-buyers-remorse-when-ftcs-cooling-rule-may-help) , customers can get out of a door-to-door contract of $25 or more within three days of the sale. For details and other consumer protection information, visit the FTC’s Web site, www.ftc.gov.

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