Watch Out for These Doorstep Scam Artist Tricks

2010 Census adds to flow of scam artists who might knock at your door with a plausible story: Internet Scambusters #367

The impending 2010 US Census is just one of several ruses a
scam artist might use when he or she knocks at your door.
There are plenty more.

From panhandlers begging for money and bogus students selling
magazine subscriptions to phony utility workers who want to
get into your house or get you outside, these scammers know
all the tricks.

So should you. And where better to start than this Scambusters
issue, which also outlines how to deal with potential front
door scams?

However, we first encourage you to take a look at this week’s
most popular articles from our other sites:

Charity Starts at an Early Age: Learn how this thoughtful boy showed
href="http://www.consumersavvytips.org/charity_starts_at_an_early_age.html"
target="_blank">charity at such an early age, how he was
rewarded, and how you can encourage this type of behavior in your
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Chocolate Fondue: Using Your Imagination – Get creative with href="http://www.extremechocolate.com/chocolate-fondue-using-your-imagination.html"
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Cut Costs to the Bone — Save Money On Seasonings: href="http://www.consumersavvytips.org/cut_costs_to_the_bone_--_save_money_on_seasonings.html"
target="_blank">Save money on seasonings and see how it can add
up at the grocery store.

Holiday Articles:

2 Easy Tips for Getting out of Holiday Credit Card Debt: href="http://www.creditcardwhizkid.com/2008/12/2-easy-tips-for-getting-out-of-holiday-credit-card-debt.html"
target="_blank">Get out of holiday credit card debt with these
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target="_blank">stocking stuffers ideas with these helpful
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Find the Best Christmas Gifts for Tweens: href="http://www.superchristmasgifts.com/find-the-best-christmas-gifts-for-tweens.html"
target="_blank">Christmas Gift ideas for tweens on your list that will
bring a smile of delight to her face.

Let’s get started…


Watch Out for These Doorstep Scam Artist Tricks


Is there a scam artist knocking at your front door? Maybe,
because doorstep scams are on the rise. And there’s good
reason to believe that 2010 could be a bumper year for these
crooks who try to trick you either out of your possessions or
personal information they can use for identity theft.

In fact, as you’ll see next week, we’ve included Doorstep
Scams on our list of the Top Scams of 2010.

One reason is the 2010 US Census, which we already wrote about in href="http://www.scambusters.org/swineflu.html">Swine Flu and Census
Scams Exploit Fear and Ignorance — but after a recent new spate
of Census scam alerts, it’s worth repeating the warning.

Census Scams

Census scams can also arrive by email — and that’s always a
con because the US Census Bureau doesn’t use email to gather
information.

But the most dangerous trick is when a bogus Census worker
turns up at your front door and starts asking detailed
questions about your personal finances and demands information
including your Social Security number (which, just for the
record, the real Census does not collect).

Even though Census workers may ask general financial
questions, about your earnings range for instance, their main
quest is to establish how many people are at the house on
Census day (for population calculations) and the types of jobs
they do.

If someone claiming to be a Census worker knocks at your door,
they will have identification, a badge, a handheld device, a
Census Bureau canvas bag, and a confidentiality notice.

Action: Always ask to see their identification and their badge
before answering their questions — and inspect them closely.

If you suspect a Census scam or have any doubts about
authenticity, contact the Census Bureau. More details of this
and other information can be found at the Bureau’s website at
Census.gov.

And, of course, the best way to reduce the Census scam risk is
to fill in and return your postal Census form, which will be
mailed out in March for National Census Day, which is on April 1.

Sadly, Census scams are just one of the crimes you may face at
your front door. Here are other key doorstep scams to be aware
of…

Bogus Charity Collections and Magazine Subscriptions

This is a huge category of scam which has been going on for
years, raking in millions of dollars.

The bottom line is that unless you know the caller, you might
have no way of confirming who they say they are. Some even
carry phony identification, while others have children with
them to make their plea seem more convincing.

To some extent, you’re dependent on your gut instinct when
someone calls at your house and asks for money. A safe bet is
to take the contact details of the organization they say
they’re collecting for and send the money directly to them.

Sometimes, of course, they’re selling stuff — often items for
future delivery, especially to raise funds for schools and
community organizations, and there’s no harm in asking them to
call back after you’ve checked out their credentials.

If they’re scammers, they won’t return.

A simple but sneaky trick a charity scam artist might try is
to ask you to pay by check made out to the organization
they’re supposedly collecting for.

That makes it seem authentic, doesn’t it? But for scammers,
the name will be one that can easily be altered.

For example, in one recent incident, charity scam artists
selling phony magazine subscriptions claimed to be students
working for College Associate Sales. They asked for checks to
be made out to “CAS”. They add an “H” — so you’ve just handed
them “CASH”!

Utility Company Scams

Another type of scam artist who might turn up on your doorstep
claims to work for one of the local utility companies, usually
the phone or water company.

Their motives vary and you should never admit them to your
home without confirming their identity, especially if they
turn up unannounced rather than by appointment.

(You still should be wary even if an appointment is made by an
incoming phone call. Always double check it with the utility
company.)

What do these utility scam artists want? Perhaps to:

  • Get into your home on the pretext of checking an
    installation when they really want to check out your house
    contents for immediate or future theft.

  • Get you out of the house, supposedly to inspect an invented
    problem or help identify underground utility lines, while an
    accomplice enters your home to steal your stuff.

  • Identify and “fix” a fault, for which they demand immediate
    payment. Utility companies don’t usually operate this way.

Bogus contractors who knock at your door may also use some of
these tricks, as well as offering to carry out cheap repairs
that are either unnecessary or done badly.

Even worse, they may not be done at all, if you pay upfront.
See last week’s issue covering repair scam tricks for more
details on this ruse: href="http://www.scambusters.org/repairscam.html">20 Smart Steps to
Stop Repair Scam Artists from Fixing Your Wallet.

Other people who might try to get into your home include con
artists who claim to have had an auto breakdown and ask to use
your phone, while yet others may just ask to pay a visit to
your bathroom.

How to Deal With Potential Front Door Scams

If you’re alone, elderly or otherwise vulnerable — or even
slightly suspicious — our advice is to say: “I’m sorry, I’ve
been advised not to let anyone into the house.” Then quickly
shut the door.

Most front door scam artists usually come over as nice, polite
people, often well-dressed. It’s all part of their act.

But there are times when they turn nasty. Some may simply be
panhandlers, who call at your house asking for money for some
invented need, again like an auto breakdown or running out of
fuel.

Others may be high-pressure salespeople, who turn on the charm
at the outset, then become increasingly hostile as you resist
their sales patter.

Again, these characters are often selling shoddy or overpriced
goods and you should never buy from them on the spur of the
moment. If you’re interested in what they’re offering, say
you’ll call them back — and shut the door. Never invite them in.

For all of the reasons we’ve outlined in this issue, it’s
worth considering installing a through-the-door “peep-hole”
that allows you to see who’s outside before opening up.

You can also think about using a safety chain that allows the
door to be securely opened just a few inches while you talk to
the person on your doorstep (but we prefer the “peep-hole”
approach since you are then not opening the door.

The bottom line is that you should always be ready to not open
or shut the door in the face of a persistent or suspicious
person. It may seem rude — but it’s better than becoming the
victim of a doorstep scam artist.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week, a Merry
Christmas and a very happy holiday season!