BBB: Avoid doing business at the front door

HARTFORD — Spring and summer are peak seasons for door-to-door sales, and unfortunately, the unannounced “visitors” will do everything they can to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit without a contract, according to the Connecticut Better Business Bureau.

“The same advice for telephone solicitations applies to door-to-door sales,” said Connecticut Better Business Bureau spokesman Howard Schwartz. “That advice is don’t do business at your front door when a stranger comes knocking.”

Door-to-door salespeople may be reputable, but their goal is to make a sale or get your signature on a contract as quickly as possible. This usually prevents their victims from having enough time to do their research and think carefully before making a decision.

The list of potential doorstep frauds is lengthy:

  • Pavers – They will claim they have material left over from another job in the neighborhood and offer a “today only” cut-rate discount. The “discount” is a high pressure sales tactic. Every year BBB receives complaints about these deals, saying that the labor and materials are substandard. They also may require you to pay a deposit right away. Once you do, they may start the work and subsequently disappear with your money.
  • Deceptive sales tactics – The most common scams that fall into this category include trying to sign-up consumers with electricity wholesalers or alarm monitoring services. They try to get the consumer to change their security system monitoring service using deception, by telling them that the company that monitors their burglar alarm is out of business, when in fact, it is not.
  • Home improvement contractors – Door-to-door contractors may be unlicensed, uninsured and unqualified to do the work they offer. Roofing contractors may make false claims that major repairs are necessary or that the roof needs replacement.
  • Magazine sellers – Students are often unaware they are being duped into selling magazine subscriptions for criminal operators. In some cases, consumers are overcharged and/or the wrong magazines arrive, if they arrive at all. In the meantime, the magazine vendors’ boss collects credit card numbers and check information for the purpose of committing fraud.
  • Alarm systems – Better Business Bureau receives complaints about door-to-door alarm salespeople who sell burglar alarms but fail to disclose terms of the monitoring contract, perform shoddy work and give inadequate instructions on how to use the system.

One of the most valuable tools in the scammers’ arsenal is a clipboard and some sort of identification which may or may not be legitimate. Anybody can put false registration numbers on business cards, vehicles or websites. Before opening the door, insist they pass their identification information to you so that you can verify their legitimacy.

Connecticut Better Business Bureau has a checklist to help you protect yourself from common warm weather scams:
Avoid making an immediate decision to buy something or sign a contract for a service –Check out their credentials or look for an accredited business or professional at bbb.org, instead of rushing into unknown territory with a stranger.

  • Do your research – Check BBB to find out if they exist, and are qualified, insured and licensed to do business in Connecticut. A legitimate company or professional will gladly provide such proof, and give you as much time as you need to do your research and make a sound buying decision.
  • Select a business or individual yourself – If you need work done, services or goods, select an accredited business at bbb.org. This will allow you to see what other consumers’ experience was like with the company or individual.
  • Think of safety – Some door-knockers are simply trying to determine whether anyone is home, with the intent to break and enter. Don’t even allow them to look inside your home. Some door-to-door scammers are simply trying to case your home to see if it is worth breaking into.
  • Call the police if necessary – Tell police if there is anything suspicious about the seller, such as their inability to provide proper identification, refusal to leave your property when asked or other unusual behavior.

Share this information with family, friends and neighbors so they can protect themselves from unethical and even criminal attempts to get them to part with their money, sign a contract or pay a deposit.