Beware of Criminals - The Do's and Don't's of Summertime Door Knockers

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As the weather heats up and summer time officially rolls in, we are all more than ready to hit the beach and start relaxing. Unfortunately, the approach of summer is often accompanied by an influx of new scam artists, just ready to take advantage of the warm weather and your relaxed attitude. These con artists are eager to have you open up your doors and homes to them. Often, they may come disguised as door to door salesmen or even as security alarm contractors!

As the sun warms up, and you take off your layers for warmth, make sure to keep your layer of protection (and your guard) up! Keep your summer fun and safe by making sure that you’re not the next victim of a scam.

We’ve gathered a few cautionary tales and tips to make sure you’re in the know:

Door to Door Scammers:

We love to help people in need and scammers know that. Often the young man or woman stopping at your door with a great deal on a magazine subscription will casually mention that they’re trying to pay their way through college, help out their local sports team, or support a family member with health issues. Many just need to buy a ticket to get back home. When you hear a sob story, your ears should perk up. It’s great to help out someone in need, but scammers know all the right moves to pull on your heart strings.

Knock, Knock. Who’s There?:

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If you hear a knock on your door and a stranger is there, use caution. It’s always best to use the peep hole or a window to see who is at the door, before opening it. Particularly, if you are home alone ask them to identify themselves before opening the door. If you are concerned, it’s absolutely okay to turn them away without opening your door. It’s not rude to protect yourself. Your safety is a priority. If you do turn them away, watch them out the window to make sure they do indeed leave your property. A solicitor must obey any signs you have on your property, such as “No Soliciting” or “No Trespassing.” Signs like these are a great layer of protection. If they do not obey these signs, or leave when asked, make sure to alert your local authorities.

If you decide to open the door, keep them there. Do not invite them in. It’s important to make sure that you’re not alone with a stranger, both for your physical safety and the safety of your wallet. Once a scam artist is in your house, it will be harder to get them to leave without taking their offer. In 2013, AARP published an article about a retired couple in California, Joe and Irene Pellouso, who let a scam artist into their home. The scam artist ultimately sold them a vacuum cleaner for $4,400: twice their monthly income. The couple reported that because of their age and his dementia, they could not easily rid the determined salesman from their home. He had eventually worn them down.

Obtain and Record Identification:

When they start giving you a tale of how you can help them achieve their dreams, you can hear them out, but make sure to consider that it may not be true. Ask questions. Don’t be taken in by the promise of ‘snake oil’ like products. Gather as many facts as you can. Make sure not to give them money on a promise.

Scam artists will often offer future products, like magazine subscriptions, at a drastically discounted rate. The magazine subscription never comes and you are left with no one to contact, no customer support, and no way to get a refund on your “subscription fee.”

Whenever a door to door salesman comes calling, make sure to immediately check their identification. Make sure to record any name and contact information. Also make sure to obtain the contact information for their company, including address and telephone number. You have the right to obtain this information. If the salesman is resistant or hesitant, this is a big red flag. This is not a person you want to do business with.

Today’s Transaction Tomorrow:

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If you do decide you can trust this salesman, make sure to get everything in writing. Never agree to a verbal contract. It’s important to document everything and protect yourself in this deal. It’s important to never pay in cash. This way, you can easily stop the transaction if it goes south. Make sure to get a written agreement of what goods or services you will receive, the terms of these services and significantly, the agreed upon price. Make sure to include at least a three day cancellation period. This way, if you change your mind, you’re free and clear of any liabilities or charges!

Unsolicited Solicitors:

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Just last week, there was a knock on Gigi Ramirez’s door. A salesman was there claiming that he came to provide her an estimate on a home security system. Since Ramirez had not called any companies for an estimate, she was wary of his tale. He was very insistent and tried to provide her with incentives to let him into her home, including gift cards to Home Depot.

Always be cautious when talking to strangers about your home security. Ramirez knew, here, that she had not asked for estimates, and was consequently more guarded. This man could easily be a scam artist, trying to sell her a non-existent system, but he could also be a potential burglar trying to case her house. In this conversation, he could easily learn about the access points to a home, if she has a home security system currently, and if she had let him in, what valuables she had and where they were located.

Many times, a scam artist will come and go without incident, but will return later for their actual scam. Whether this scam is to burglarize your home, or sell you a product, many are caught off guard by a return visit. Seeing the same person twice can provide you with a false sense of familiarity. You may think you can trust this person, after all, you’ve seen them before and nothing happened then!

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Such an incident happened this month to an elderly man in England. He spoke briefly with a salesman, but did not make a purchase. The salesman later returned with another man, and were allowed into his house. While inside, the stole a large sum of money and his passport!

False Sense of Security:

Unfortunately, it’s not just solicitors you must be wary of. It’s important to keep an eye on workmen and contractors you let into your home. Often, large alarm companies may hire installers who are sub-contracted, rather than employees. These installers may have ulterior motives. Jason Michael Adams, a home alarm technician in Florida, had just that, and was arrested after attempting to steal more than $40,000 worth of jewelry while installing an alarm system.

A similar incident happened in 2013, when Shawn Michael Garza came to install a security camera system in a Florida home. While in the house, Garza stole over $100,000 worth of jewelry and other items. He also stole the recording system for the cameras he was installing.

Home security is a great means of protecting yourself against unwanted guests. It provides you protection whether you’re home or away. If you’re threatened by a solicitor, a panic button allows you to immediately call for help! Make sure that your security system comes from people you can trust, or just cut out the middle man completely, and install your home security system yourself. SimpliSafe is a do it yourself home security system, so you never need to worry about letting a stranger into your home.

This summer, when you hear a knock on the door, make sure to keep your guard up and these tips in mind. The only visitors coming into your home should be a welcome and invited guests. Make sure that any stranger in your house comes from a reputable source and keep them in eye sight at all time. With these tips in mind, you can now enjoy your summer with ease, knowing everything at home is safe and secure.

Protect your home the smart way. Try SimpliSafe today! Find out why tech experts at CNET call it “better, smarter home security.