John North, Dayton Better Business Bureau president. CONTRIBUTED

Scam watch: Shut out door-to-door peddlers

Scams rise with the temperature as traveling con artists begin looking to earn quick cash. Shady characters go door-to-door selling everything from magazine subscriptions, meat and alarm systems to roofing and tree trimming services. In reality, they leave you with overpriced or low-quality products, shoddy work or nothing at all.

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Many companies employ high school and college age people trying to earn money over the summer. These crews are sent to communities to sell magazines, funeral contracts, meat, living trusts or kitchen equipment — sometimes without appropriate licensing. In the sales pitches, they might explain they’re working to help get their lives back on track, raising money for charities or school trips or even selling subscriptions to support troops.

Another scam involves con artists arriving unannounced to your home, claiming to be working at neighbors’ homes and dropped by to see if you need any work done or noticed defects around your home. Peddlers claim to have materials leftover from other jobs and offer low prices. Others pose as utility company employees and claim you’re violating regulations and offer names of people who can do work immediately.

These scammers ask for cash upfront, do some work and come up with reasons to leave, never to be seen again and leaving you with a mess. If you fall for these scams, you’ll be out the cash initially paid plus the money to hire someone else to finish the job or, sometimes, they take the cash and run without doing any work.

Door-to-door peddlers usually have no company identification, like vehicle signs, company logos or names on shirts or company literature like business cards, contracts or estimate forms and their vehicles may have out-of-state license plates.

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Better Business Bureau offers these tips to help you avoid door-to-door scams:

• Avoid letting strangers in your home.

• Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured as appropriate.

• Get references and check them out.

• Don’t feel pressured to do business on the spot. A legitimate contractor or salesperson will give you time to decide.

• Never pay in cash. Make the check out to the company, not the person.

• Get everything in writing, including oral promises, costs and timelines.

• Deal with local companies, not only to help with the local economy, but also so the company is accessible should you need them to return to fulfill a warranty or for other reasons.

• Remember the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule gives you the right to cancel certain items purchased at your home within three business days.

And, as always, check companies out with BBB. Visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.

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John North is president of the Dayton Better Business Bureau.

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