June 15, 2013

BBB: Beware door-to-door peddling pests

Summer pests come in many forms: mosquitoes, wasps and door-to-door salesmen.

Summer pests come in many forms: mosquitoes, wasps and door-to-door salesmen.

Don’t fall prey to the scammers who swarm during warm weather season. They peddle everything from steaks to home security systems.

Their opening lines vary from “working in the neighborhood” to “only want a minute of your time.” Many offer legitimate products at some savings.

The unscrupulous are among them, however, and consumers would be smart to remember these scams to watch out for.

• Bargain-priced asphalt paving is a frequently offered service. The seller may claim to have material left over from another job in your neighborhood. Their workmanship is usually shoddy and the materials used are often substandard.
• Home improvement, heating, roofing and chimney contractors often come knocking, especially after storms have hit. They may well be unlicensed, uninsured and unqualified to perform the work, which you may or may not really need done. Among the red flags to watch for are: wanting to be paid in cash, wanting you to be responsible for getting required permits, claiming your job will be a “demonstration,” wanting entire payment up-front and pressuring you for an immediate decision.
• Landscaping and cleanup crews comb neighborhoods during summer looking for yard work. Some will only show up once or twice or take an initial deposit and never do any work at all.
• Magazine sellers sometimes prey on college students who may not realize they are working for disreputable companies. Consumers have reported receiving the wrong magazines and being overcharged. Some of these outfits are really only trying to get access to your credit card information.
• Alarm system sellers are frequently complained about to the BBB for failing to divulge all of the terms of the system-monitoring contract.

The Cooling-Off Rule

When you buy an item through door-to-door sales or from a salesperson away from their company’s permanent place of business, the Federal Trade Commission has a Cooling-Off Rule that gives you three days to cancel a purchase of $25 or more. Your right to cancel for a full refund extends until midnight of the third business day after the sale.

The salesperson is required by law to tell you about your cancellation rights at the time of the sale, and must give you two copies of a cancellation form – one to keep and one to send – and a dated copy of your contract or receipt.

Find more information about the Cooling-Off Rule by visiting www.consumer.ftc.gov and clicking on “Looking for a refund?”

Six tips

When a solicitor knocks on your door to sell you merchandise or contractor services, first ask yourself how badly you need what they are selling. If you haven’t already felt the need for it enough to seek it out, perhaps it is the sort of thing you should purchase after careful comparison-shopping. The sudden attractiveness of a salesperson’s pitch may be a sign that you are being talked into something you should not buy.

Six BBB tips for protection when selecting a contractor:

1. Research the contractor at www.bbb.org. Don’t decide at your front door and don’t invite the solicitor into your home.

2. Get their identification and information and decide on your own time.

3. High-pressure sales tactics are a sign you should avoid the contractor.

4. Check credentials: insurance, license and registration with the state of Kansas.

5. Get everything in a written contract, including payment schedule.

6. Remember the FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule.

Report any deceptive or illegal business practices to the Kansas Attorney General’s Office at 800-432-2310 or by visiting www.ag.ks.gov. Check out a contractor with the Wichita Area Builders Association at www.wabahome.com.

Finally, contact the Better Business Bureau with questions or complaints, or to check on the record of a business that has had a salesperson knock on your door.

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