Pittsburgh, PA – Every spring as the weather turns warmer, businesses begin to incorporate door-to-door sales as part of their marketing techniques.
While some door-to-door salespeople are legitimate, others are simply con artists looking to make a sale and move on as quickly as possible. Door-to-door scams often result in consumers being left empty-handed after they have already paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a product or service that never materializes.
“If someone knocks on your door, you should never feel pressured to invite them into your home or make an immediate hiring or purchasing decision,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Door-to-door solicitation scams tend to target a variety of industries each spring, so it’s important to recognize the red flags to weed out potential scams from legitimate businesses.”
Your Better Business Bureau recognizes the following industries as common ones in which scammers attempt to impersonate legitimate businesses and approach people at their homes:
- Home Improvement: A contractor in an unmarked and/or out-of-state vehicle offers to inspect your roof, tune up your air conditioner or repave your driveway, perhaps claiming to have leftover materials from a neighboring job. These offers often promote immediate and cheap home repairs without needing a contract. Payment is requested to be made in full, in advance, with cash.
- Home Security Systems: Scammers and unethical companies attempt to convince consumers to switch their alarm service, often by knocking on the door and claiming to be their current provider offering an “upgrade,” or alleging their current alarm service is out-of-business or was sold to the door-to-door salesperson’s business.
- Utility Imposters: A utility company “representative” appears at your door in a plausible work uniform claiming your electric meter is not working properly and must be immediately replaced— at your expense. The scammer may attempt to gain access to your home to perform “repairs” or an “energy audit” with the intent of stealing valuables. These cons may also involve promises of energy discounts with the aim of taking money, personal information or possibly the account details needed to switch you to another utility provider without your consent.
- Fake Magazine Subscriptions: In most cases, these often-younger door-to-door salespeople are working for larger groups that are out to get you to commit to multiple subscriptions that will likely never arrive or end up costing a lot more in the long run. The salesperson may promise that some portion of the sales will be donated to a charity, such as a local children’s hospital or to troops overseas.
BBB recommends the following tips when dealing with any door-to-door solicitation:
- Verify all information. After requesting to see identification from a salesperson and a solicitation permit, if required for your area, directly contact the company they claim to represent for verification. Keep in mind that if you are already associated with a company, they should have access to your information and not need to see a copy of your bill or latest statement.
- Research the company. Visit bbb.org to review the company’s BBB Business Profile, including complaint history and rating. Even if a salesperson has obtained a solicitation permit for your area, this does not automatically mean that they can be trusted or that they meet any additional industry licensing or registration requirements.
- Get everything in writing. Obtain all verbal promises in a written contract, including payment terms, any warranties or refund/return policies and start and completion dates for projects. Never sign a contract that contains blank spaces and request a copy of the contract at the time of signing.
- Pay securely. Payment by credit card is the safest method for you to conduct a financial transaction since certain consumer protections are provided. Request a receipt that documents any payments that are made.
- Know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission’s Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule gives consumers three days to cancel most purchases of more than $25 that are made in your home. By law, the company must give consumers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.
- Stand strong. Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics. A trustworthy company should allow you time to think about the purchase and compare prices before requiring payment and/or signing of a contract.
If you feel threatened or unsafe as a result of any door-to-door sales experience, report the incident to local law enforcement and file a complaint with BBB. For additional tips on door-to-door solicitations, visit bbb.org.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2018, people turned to BBB more than 173 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.4 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including your BBB Serving Western Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1931 and serves the 28 counties of Western PA.