Protect Yourself

Put up a sign.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  “No solicitations.  No handbills.”  This should weed out the vast majority of door-to-door solicitations and advertising.  Check with your city or town to see what the regulations are regarding soliciting.  Many municipalities prohibit soliciting at homes that display anti-solicitation notices.  If you have put up a sign and still receive solicitations, you can file a complaint.

Don’t answer the door.  Hopefully a sign will deter door-to-door peddlers, but if it doesn’t, simply don’t answer the door unless you’re expecting someone.  If you don’t answer the door to a scammer, he or she will move on.  Don’t even give these people the time of day.  If you heed this one piece of advice, you will not need to read any further.  If, however, you make the mistake of opening your door and end up confronting a doorstep scam, make sure you follow all the steps below.

Ask around.  If you need someone to work on your home, ask friends and family for recommendations.  Check out the handiwork whenever possible.  If you see a paint job you like in the neighborhood, find out who the painter was.  Don’t hire someone who shows up at your door.  

Don’t pay any money up front.  Contractors should not require you to pay anything up front.  If they claim to need the money to buy supplies, this should be a warning sign.  If it’s a salesperson…well, why are you opening your door to salespeople?  Don’t open the door, don’t buy anything, don’t hand over any money.  Period.

Get it in writing.  Ask a contractor for a written quote.  When you hire someone, make sure you have a signed contract that includes pricing, a clear description of the work to be completed, and a time frame.  If for some unknown reason you end up buying something on your doorstep, you’ll need the name and contact information for the company, as well as a written cancellation policy, if you want to issue a complaint and take advantage of the cooling-off rule.  And you will want to file a complaint.

Check with the authorities.  Contact your state licensing board to find out if a contractor is licensed.  Make sure they are insured before they begin work.  You may also want to check with the state attorney’s office to find out if anyone has filed a complaint against the company.  

Don’t rely on appearances.  Identification is easy to forge.  Vans are a dime a dozen.  Anyone can put on a hard hat and work boots.  Just because they look right doesn’t mean they are.  Beware of anyone carrying a clipboard.  If someone claims to be from the utility company, call the company (using a number you find yourself, not one provided by the person).  Utility workers usually have appointments.  They don’t show up randomly.  

Call the cops.  If you feel threatened or intimidated in any way, call the police.  If you have someone standing in your doorway, you’re vulnerable.  Don’t put yourself in that position.  Keep the phone handy.  If you’ve told them to go away and they’re loitering outside your home, call the police. 

“The cynics are right nine times out of ten.”


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