Better Business Bureau Warns Against ‘Friendly’ Scammers

September 27, 2013 Updated Jun 7, 2011 at 1:06 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Better Business Bureau Warns Against ‘Friendly’ Scammers

September 27, 2013 Updated Jun 7, 2011 at 1:06 PM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- Every year the Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints from consumers who bought into a deal offered at their front door.

Sunshine and warm weather will bring out the best in people and unfortunately, some unscrupulous, seemingly friendly neighborhood marketers looking to trick consumers. In recent weeks, the BBB has learned of door-to-door home alarm systems being offered, handy-men knocking, home improvement deals, magazine and other products being sold. BBB warns that deceptive door-to-door sales crews are hitting the pavement and looking to earn a quick buck all summer long.

They can be young and well groomed, or friendly folks offering what seems to be a helping hand or a good deal. Door to door presentations can be so slick that some consumers aren't even aware of what they’ve bought until the bill arrives. These high pressure sellers use tactics that can victimize even a savvy consumer.

“Summer weather is sure to bring an eager group of door knockers from all trades to your door,” said David Polino, Better Business Bureau President. “Your front door is a bad place to do business especially if you’re feeling pressured. Consumers should never buy something under strain or take a deal that doesn’t disclose all of the details. Consumers are often misled by door to door sales people, so it’s important for homeowners to beware of common schemes and for caregivers to protect elderly parents against these scams.”

Many complaints allege sales representatives took their cash and either hooked them into lengthy contracts, did partial work, didn’t return to do work at all, or took their check but the products never arrived.

BBB advises consumers to beware of these common door-to-door scams:

Handy Man Scam: You name it – they claim they can do it …roofing, siding, paint, concrete repair. There are several versions of the handy man scam so before you begin ask yourself, can you trust them? Beware that some scammers have claimed they work for well known stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s. It pays to check out their story before doing business.

Home Alarm Scam: Scammers targeting seniors, poor neighborhoods or homes that already have home security systems. They may claim their system is completely free but buyers soon find out that while the equipment comes at no charge, monthly surveillance is costly, contracts are lengthy and service is not available in their area. Pitch men often sell products from out-of-town companies and are not properly licensed in New York State.

Magazine Sales Scam: Young representatives might explain they are working to raise money on behalf of a charity, saving for college or even selling subscriptions to support military families or other victims of natural disasters. The sales person’s youthful age can prompt consumers to fall victim and believe a fictitious sales pitch. Beware that most complaints filed tell the BBB consumers unknowingly purchasing multi-year magazine subscriptions.

Driveway Sealer Scam: So called contractors show up claiming they have materials left over from a nearby job and offer to seal your driveway for a rock-bottom price. After you pay up front, the workers may slather some substance, such as crude motor oil, on your driveway, or claim they’ll return later that day and run off without doing any work at all. In the best case, you are out some money, in the worst case; you’re cleaning up the mess and out the money.

BBB recommends the following tips to handle door-to-door sellers:

Listen carefully and be aware of high pressure sales tactics. Some unscrupulous door-to-door sellers will put pressure on you to close the deal at that moment, and even make special offers to entice you. Listen to their tone. Are they increasing in volume as they speak to you? Are they ignoring you despite saying you are not interested? Find a way to end the conversation quickly to avoid long, drawn-out pressure sales pitches.

Stand strong. Do not invite unsolicited salespeople into your home. If you do allow a salesperson inside and decide during the presentation that you are not interested in making a purchase, simply ask him or her to leave. If the salesperson refuses to leave, threaten to call the police, and follow through if they don’t leave immediately.

Verify the individual and the company. If you are interested in buying from a door-to-door seller, get everything in writing including price, warranty and all conditions. Tell the salesperson you will check it out and get back to him or her. Ask for a business card and contact information. Look the company up yourself and check to verify this person is an employee. Also, take the time to check out the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.

Don’t fall for empty promises. The seller might claim to offer a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, but many complainants had no way to contact the seller if they were dissatisfied. Make sure you have valid contact information should you need a repair.

Never pay with cash. When paying by check or credit card you have some protection of your money—such as canceling the check or reporting it as fraud to your credit card company. If you pay with cash and are dissatisfied, you’re at the mercy of the salesman.

Know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission’s Three-Day Cooling-off Rule gives the customer three days to cancel purchases over $25 that are made in their home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. Along with a receipt, salespeople should also include a completed cancellation form that customers can send to the company to cancel the agreement. By law, the company must give customers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice. Saturday is considered a business day.

Report the bad guys. If you feel that you were ripped off by a door-to-door salesmen, file a complaint with your Better Business Bureau at bbb.org. Also report any unlicensed salesmen to the appropriate city or county authorities.