Cold Callers are people who come to your door that you do not know. Some doorstep sellers are honest, but unfortunately there are some rogue traders who target their victims by making uninvited ‘cold calls’ and offering to provide goods or services. The rogues target seniors and those less able to check the quality of the work or who may be easily intimidated into parting with large sums of money. These goods or services are poor quality, but when consumers try to complain they find it difficult or impossible to contact the trader who often refuses to return or has disappeared.
A couple common ‘scams’ include:
Someone knocks on your door claiming to be working in the area and that they have some materials with which to resurface your drive at a cut price rate. They may state that they have been doing work for the city or county and have materials left over. Work done is usually of very poor quality and the final bills are often far higher than what was originally quoted. Although they can be quite charming in their attempts to get you to agree to the work, they often turn threatening when it comes to the time to pay. Many go as far as to drive older people to the bank in order that they may withdraw more money. A few months later, when there are weeds coming through the asphalt and the company has vanished with little hope of finding them.
Roofing, home repairs & garden maintenance
Sometimes workmen cold call and offer to do home repairs like roofing, guttering, fascia work or garden maintenance. Often the work they do is unnecessary and in some cases did not need doing at all. Even if the work was required, it may be done to a very poor standard and the final bill will be far higher than their initial verbal quote. These workmen may become threatening when they demand payment and will leave an invoice with very little contact information. If there are problems with the work, it will then be very difficult to contact them to get them to come back and resolve any problems.
It is sometimes difficult to say ‘No’. Doorstep traders are often trained in high pressure sales techniques and can be very persuasive. You always have the right to say ‘I do not buy from cold callers.
Take control of the situation
It is often difficult to spot a rogue company so:
- DON’T buy from doorstep traders.
- Fix a security chain to your door and use it.
- Display a sticker on your door saying No Solicitors.
- Only open the door if you have the chain on.
- Check identification of callers and ask to see their ID and then phone the company.
- If you have any doubts about the person on your doorstep say ‘No thank you’ and close the door. If they refuse to go away tell them that you will call the police.
- If you are alone ask the caller to come back and arrange for someone else to be present.
If you have any evidence that workmen are using ‘scams’ in your area, don’t confront them. Just get as much information as you can and contact your local Police.
- Don’t make a ‘snap’ decision. Never be persuaded by the argument that this is ‘the only opportunity because this offer ends tomorrow’ or ‘we are only in the area this week’.
- Don’t sign a contract until you are completely happy with it.
- Don’t pay a deposit unless you have to and only pay a very small amount.
- Don’t pay for the work or materials in advance. Most reputable builders do not need payment in advance.
- Don’t pay cash. Pay with a check (which can be traced if necessary) or if the service or goods cost more than $100 then use a credit card as this offers extra protection.
- Don’t let the trader escort you to the bank to take out money to pay them. If they are threatening or insistent then call the police on 911.
Some final words of advice
Do not assume that all advertisements in Yellow Pages, other business directories or local papers are from bona fide traders. It is rare for publishers to check the credentials of people who advertise with them. Similarly an address and 800 number do not necessarily signify a reputable business.