When Deception Goes Door to Door

Fall has arrived and as homeowners start to ready their homes for the winter season, they are ripe prey for door-to-door scam artists. Scam artists know when and how to strike. They will approach you as the season changes to solicit work, but often their main objective is to gain access to your home, or to obtain personal or financial information from you. Commons services that can be fronts for scams include:

  • Chimney/roof or gutter cleanup
  • Landscape/leaf pick up
  • Furnace tune up/repair
  • Duct cleaning
  • Window sales
  • Couriers/deliveries
  • School fundraisers
  • Cleaning product supplies
  • Election polling/campaign workers
  • Door-to-door sales of any kind

Not everyone who knocks on your door is a scam artist. Many are completely legitimate companies/individuals offering their services. However, if they try to “lock you in” or pressure you to sign up for something on the first visit, that is a huge red flag!

Signs of a Scam Artist

Scam artists usually prey on the elderly and isolated, but they will also try to solicit anyone they think they can con. They often go door-to-door in a neighborhood until they get at least one person to comply with their ploy. They are usually very polite, personable and friendly, but they are really just using these techniques to get your guard down and gain your trust. Don’t be fooled. Always ask for identification and as many communities prohibit door-to-door solicitation, check for permits as well. When in doubt, close the door and call the company or your local city hall to check for validity.

Below are some common scams:

  • Unexpected utility worker. Utility companies will always notify you in advance if they are sending workers to your area. They also never charge for a service call at the time of the appointment. Service appointments are always billed later.
  • Offer of a free energy audit. This is a common scam to get you to purchase unnecessary improvements and/or in some cases the person can damage your property and then offer to fix it for a fee.
  • Immediate fall cleanup services. If someone knocks on your door with an extremely low quote, be careful. They often ask to be paid by check or in cash and upon completion they will demand more money because the task was more involved or took more time than they initially thought.
  • Unknown school fundraisers. Kids do go out into the neighborhood to sell candy, magazines, wrapping paper, etc. for their school, but they should carry some type of credentials. Beware if you find them collecting for schools outside of your district, or if they ask for any type of personal information for the donation (i.e. credit card info).
  • Unknown charities. Be careful of unfamiliar organizations collecting for recent disaster relief, wounded vets, police/fire departments, sick kids, or abused pets. This is a common scam.
  • Overseas financial aid.  You may encounter someone collecting for school age children, orphans, human rights victims, or someone down on their luck. Check their credentials and ask for any permits that may be required to solicit door-to-door.
  • Pollsters asking for personal info. Legitimate pollsters will only ask your opinions of the candidates or the issues.
  • On-site voter registration. Legitimate canvassers will leave behind registration forms for you to mail-in and/or literature for self-registration.
  • Unexpected deliveries. Never accept an unexpected delivery if they ask for your credit card information to charge a “verification fee” or for some other fee.

The most important thing is to NEVER invite someone into your home if you did not have a prior appointment scheduled for an in-home visit or service call. Even if you do have an appointment, especially if they tele-marketed you to make the appointment, it is best to make sure you are not home alone. Have a family member or a trusted friend with you.  And, if someone you don’t know wants to enter your home, close the door, lock it and alert the authorities. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Visit these online resources for more tips and tricks to catch scam artists in their tracks:


Better Business Bureau (BBB)

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