Protect Yourself from Springtime Scams

  
     
March 19, 2015

As springtime blooms, so do new scams. Scammers will be going door-to-door with plans to rip-off the residents. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers that now is the time to be on their guard.

“Most of the scams aren’t new but because con artists know how to work them they appear year after year,” says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “What we want to do is educate consumers on what to look for so they can stay one step ahead.”

Alarm System Scams

No one wants to have their home burglarized and many homeowners pay substantial sums to have their homes protected by security systems. These scam artists, who are often alarm company sales people, comb neighborhoods looking for signs posted in yards warning that the home has a security system. They knock on the door and tell you the system needs to be upgraded. Once inside they give you the bad news that the system cannot protect you against today’s modern theft techniques and offer to “upgrade” your system. In reality, they are disconnecting your service provider and installing a system from their company. If you agree to the “upgrade” and sign their agreement you could be locked into a multi-year contract that can end with a costly penalty if you try to break it.

How to protect yourself:

  • Never allow anyone into your home who claims to be from your alarm company without contacting the company first.
  • Ask questions if they are reluctant to provide answers – that’s a red flag
  • Don’t be frightened by reports from them of an increase of burglaries in your area.
  • Never sign any agreement where you feel pressured to do so.
  • Do not sign anything that you have not read thoroughly.

Storm Chasers

Spring can bring severe weather leaving behind hail-damaged roofs. Following the storms are fraudsters known as “storm chasers”. These scam artists sell themselves as roofing contractors. They go town-to-town, door-to door, taking money for work, under performing or not performing at all, and then moving on to the next town before the homeowners can get their money back.

Homeowners can lose thousands of dollars in these scams.

The BBB offers these tips before choosing a roofing contractor:

 

  • If approached by a contractor, ask for proof of licensing, insurance and bonding.
  • Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.
  • Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.
  • Check out the company first with the BBB at www.bbb.org/chicago and deal only with reputable contractors.
  • Get a written contract that specifies the price and the work to be done and a time frame. In Illinois, state law requires a written contract with all costs enumerated for home repair or remodeling work over $1,000.
  • Prices are often high in the immediate aftermath of a storm. Only buy the services that are necessary to make your home safe and habitable. Wait at least a few days to hire other contractors because the rates are likely to drop.
  • Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem. Otherwise, pay by check. Never pay in cash.
  • Be sure that all promises made are put in writing.

 

Magazine Sales Scams

You open your door to find someone selling subscriptions to magazines. They say it’s a great deal but often the prices are as much as three times the regular price. You pay with a check or credit card and then you receive nothing in return.

What to do to avoid being scammed:

  • Many municipalities require door-to-door solicitors to have a permit. Ask to see it.
  • Before paying, check out the businesses at bbb.org.
  • If the cost of the subscriptions is $25 or more, you must be informed of your 3-day right to cancel. If they do not, assume it is a scam.

For more information on scams, visit www.bbb.org/chicago, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or add us on Pinterest.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2014, the BBB provided more than 13,700,000 instances of service.  Over 78 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.