The Ripoff Alert is a new series appearing once each week on Fridays. It alerts you to the latest scams and ripoffs trying to get between you and your money, and gives you information you need to stay safe. This is #19 in the series.
When was the last time you bought something from a door-to-door salesperson?
We’re all familiar with the Girl Scouts who scour their neighborhoods, delighting us with their thin mints and samoas. I myself went door to door selling community discount cards to raise money for my high school soccer team almost a decade ago. Chances are most of us have had similar experiences. But as a buyer, how can you tell the difference between “innocent” sellers and those trying to take your money?
The Better Business Bureau has received an increase in complaints from people who’ve been scammed at their front door. The top complaint continues to be magazine sellers. They get people to bite by making up a sob story about being single parents, unemployed and living on the streets. They try to lock you into a multi-year subscription to popular national magazines, sometimes costing over $100. The prices they charge are generally well above the going rate for each magazine. You’re then told to wait 90 to 120 days for your first issue. In most cases no magazines show up and your money is gone.
Along with magazine sales, other common scam areas are roof repair, driveway sealing and windshield repair.
I recently heard about a new version of this scam. Scamsters pull up to your house and present you with examples of quality meats you can have delivered at regular intervals. No room to store them? No problem, we’ll give you a freezer! After signing the contract the meat you end up with is nothing like what you’re shown; it’s essentially garbage.
Be careful when anyone comes to your door trying to sell you something. Follow these tips to protect yourself:
- Be safe. Don’t just open your door to anyone.
- Watch out for high-pressure tactics. These people are trained to be very convincing and will even claim to represent a charity if all else fails. And if you’re told now will be your only chance to take advantage of this great offer, run.
- Get everything in writing. If you decide to do business with the salesperson, make sure all terms of the deal are in writing, including the cancellation procedure.
- Finally, the Federal Trade Commission has a Cooling-Off Rule, where you have three days to cancel a deal of $25 or more if it was made outside the seller’s permanent place of business. The seller then has 10 days to give you a full refund.