Nowadays, we usually associate scams with online fraud and phishing attempts. However, just because preying on people over the internet might seem easier; it doesn't mean that con artists are not eager to take advantage of people even in person. One of the most common ways they do this is by selling fake products or charging for services they never actually provide disguised as door-to-door agents. Here are some red flags to help you spot door-to-door sales scams.
Watch Out for Unsolicited Offers That Come at the Right Time
Sometimes, con artists try to turn just about anyone into their victim, but there are also cases when they target people they have been priorly observing. They do this by offering something they know for sure those people need. One common example are scammers who pretend to offer home improvement services. They know when and where to act because they’ve previously seen what was going on in the targeted neighborhood. They know which homeowners are renovating their homes and they show up at their doorstep offering services as contractors.
Given that there are periods when you simply can't find an available contractor and all those who answer your calls postpone your project for weeks or months, being offered help all of a sudden without having to make any effort is the first red flag to watch out for.
Pay Attention to What the Seller Asks
If a door-to-door agent is a scammer who’s looking for new victims, there are high chances they aren’t very knowledgeable in the field they claim to be working in. One of the easiest ways to spot a con man is by paying attention to their speech. What kind of information is that person providing you? Is it generic or are they offering you insights that prove their expertise? If the person is truly a sales agent, they should know their product in and out so don’t hesitate to ask any related questions.
Moreover, it’s important to pay attention to the questions the sales agent asks you. Are they relevant or too inquisitive? For example, there have been cases of scammers disguised as home security agents who were asking people when they were normally home or away. Answering such suspicious questions might pose you at risk. Maybe those persons just want to find out when you’re not at home so they can plan a burglar strike. As a general rule, questions that seem out of context or make you feel uncomfortable are red flags.
Avoid Sellers Who Pressure You with a Short Deadline
Coming back to our previous example, here is how the contractor scheme often unfolds. The scammer promises help, but they say they are only available to work for you that day or the next day as they’re also handling other projects during that period. Why would someone even bother to start going from door to door offering their service if they only had one or two days to serve new clients? And if they are so busy helping others, why would they take a break to work for you? To justify their offer, scammers say they've got extra supplies they would rather use before they move on to the next project.
No matter what explanation they offer, be wary of any seller or contractor who pressures you to purchase their products or service there and then. If the offer is legit, it can surely wait a few days more until you make up your mind, especially if it involves permanent home changes or repairs.
Avoid Sellers Who Try to Deter You from Contacting Their Company
Another major red flag to watch out for, one you should never overlook, is a situation in which the alleged seller is reluctant to let you contact their company. It's only normal to ask salespeople for their contact details or more details on their company. If the sales agent gets anxious and tries to change the subject after you do this, be very cautious. That person could be a scammer.
To convince you not to contact anyone else and deal directly with them, they might even tell you that signing a contract or making a purchase by contacting their company will cost more.
Don’t be afraid to ask for more details about the company the seller claims they are working for. If they are real employees, they will not avoid letting you get in touch with the rest of the team, on the contrary.
Don't Work with Anyone Who Can't Prove Who They Are
Before you agree to let any door-to-door sales agent handle your home improvement, or offer you any other type of service or product, make sure you check their license or credentials. You can quickly do this online if they don't have any available proof at hand. Moreover, it's also a good idea to do some quick research to check the company they claim they work for. Finally, you can also call the company to ascertain the agent works there.
If the background check goes well, the next step is to inspect the supplies the person will use or the product they want to sell. You should never buy anything from a door-to-door agent if they refuse to let you take your time in analyzing the product.
Be Wary of Agents Who Ask You to Switch Energy Providers
This is a well-known door-to-door scam. Nowadays, there are many alternatives when it comes to energy providers. Together with their increasing number, the so-called ‘energy scams’ have also proliferated. These scams involve door-to-door agents who promote the services of a particular provider. By taking advantage of people’s lack of knowledge or rush, they make them sign contracts that can actually prove more expensive. To avoid this, don’t switch utility providers following a discussion with a door-to-door agent. Search for more information on the provider’s website.
Avoid Making Door-to-Door Donations
There are many legit organizations that support different causes. If you want to bring your contribution by making a donation, you will surely be able to do this online or at least read more about that particular cause or ONG on the internet. However, you should be wary of people who come to your door with a badge, some pictures, and documents, and claim they raise funds for a noble cause. These are some of the most common door-to-door scams. If you really want to support a cause, ask for the organization’s website and how you can donate money by making a wire transfer.
Avoid Paying Cash
Finally, it's always safer to write a cheque or use a card when buying anything as this means you'll have proof of purchase in case something goes wrong, and you want a refund. If the door-to-door agent insists they only accept cash and can't provide you any written proof of purchase or any proof that documents their service, it's better to politely ask them to leave.
Read any Document before You Sign It
You’ve probably heard this hundreds of times by now, but many people get scammed or enter into the wrong agreement simply because they don’t take the necessary time to read the contracts they sign. Most contracts are long, rigid and may have complicated clauses, but it’s necessary to be aware of what you sign. Look for the headings of each section and get to the part that interests you the most, such as the refund or cancellation policy.
Moreover, if you only skim the contract, look for numbers. These are easier to spot and might help you determine the total cost you will end up paying as some services hide some of their fees in lengthy contracts.
If the sales agent seems impatient but you’re not able or willing to read the contract with them standing at your doorstep, simply ask them to come back the following day. Never rush to sign an agreement just because the salesman pressures you.
Get a Copy of Any Document You Sign
This is another golden rule in any type of contract-based purchase you make or deal you sign. You should always get a copy of the document you’ve signed, but most importantly, you should make sure you know what you sign before you actually do it. If the agent is simply trying to get your money but doesn’t plan on offering anything in return, that contract can be used as proof in a police investigation or legal process.
Report the Incident
If you come to the conclusion that the salesman you paid or only spoken with is an impostor, you should report the incident. This way, you will help other people avoid getting scammed. First of all, get in touch with the company they claimed they work for. It’s very important for them to know if anyone is impersonating their employees or pretending to work for them. Scammers who do this can cause serious reputational damages to the people they impersonate and the companies they pretend to represent. Secondly, you should report the incident to the police.
In-person scams are by no means gone just because those that take place online have flourished. To make sure your money is safe, always be cautious when someone offers you a deal, either online or offline.
Article by Clearwater Management Korea. All rights reserved.