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Opinion: Look out for door-to-door scams

It’s summertime, and the living is easy — especially for traveling scam artists.

Here’s a common one:  A salesman travels from house to house offering to fix up homes or driveways at rock-bottom prices.

He may give a reason why his prices are so low, such as claiming to have supplies left over from another project in the neighborhood.

Those who are trusting and pay up front are going to be out of luck: the scam artists run off with their money, leaving the work undone, or they do shoddy work, or overcharge when the job is done.

Door-to-door scams increase in warm weather, and some scammers go from town to town ripping people off, according to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.

Watch out for these scams

Driveway pavement scams:

Fraudsters sometimes stop at homes that have older, unpaved or cracked driveways.  They use the condition of the driveway as a pressure point, suggesting that the driveway should look more like the driveways of their neighbors or indicating that a better driveway would raise the consumer’s home value.

Scammers may try to pressure a homeowner to make a snap decision before they have time to shop around, often by claiming that the “bargain” offer is only available if they act now.

Fraudulent operators may be quick to disappear if a homeowner pays up front.

Home improvement scams:

With this scam, a crooked person may offer to fix a window, repair a roof, or paint a house.

These scam artists can be very aggressive.  If a homeowner pays for the work up-front, the scammer may skip town, refuse to honor the deal, perform shoddy work, or stick the homeowner with an inflated bill.

If the homeowner makes a partial payment upfront, the scammer may do some limited work to get the homeowner to pay additional funds, before the fraudster skips town.

Security alarm scams:

Each summer, traveling crews come to Minnesota to sign people up for security alarms.

Scammers may get their foot in the door by telling you the alarm is “free” or discounted or that they are with your current alarm company.  They may scare you by talking about crime in your neighborhood.  They may ask you to sign a contract whose print is so small you can’t even read it.

In some cases, people have signed contracts requiring them to pay as much as $50 per month for five years for a security alarm that doesn’t work or that they don’t need.

If you want a security alarm, the best advice is to ask friends and family for references and then research them.

Put your safety first.  Don’t let unknown salesmen inside your home. Scammers can be very aggressive. If you let them inside your home, they sometimes refuse to leave until you sign a contract.

Listen to your instincts.  If you have an uneasy feeling about a door-to-door operator, just say “no” and shut the door. 

If you suspect a door-to-door scam is occurring, immediately notify law enforcement — you may save one of your neighbors a pile of money.