It is common each fall for us to see an increase in solicitors in our graduate student housing complexes. This is particularly true in the Catalinas.
While some door-to-door sales are legitimate, many are scams in which the salespeople use high-pressure sales tactics and false claims to coerce consumers into buying products or services that they do not need or that are never delivered. Common door-to-door sales scams are for magazine and newspaper subscriptions.
How Door-to-Door Sales Scams Work
In typical door-to-door scams, the door-to-door fraudsters disguise themselves as employees with uniforms and badges, or as college students doing part-time jobs to earn tuition fees.
Their real aim, however, is to convince you into buying their products or service you actually don't need.
What Are Common Types of Door-to-Door Scams
Below is a list of common door-to-door scams. Stay vigilant if you are confronted with such scenarios.
- Donation Scams: Someone comes to your front door and seek for donations in certain organizations' name, such as the Hope Center. It is also a common kind of door-to-door charity scams.
- Art Scams: A group of young people, claiming to be international art students, tell you that they are trying to raise funds for their tuition and art supplies by selling their own piece.
- Survey Scams: The door-to-door fraudsters knock on your door and claim to be taking a survey for an election or wellness checks. Survey scams often work because people are less suspicious of surveys than they are of sales pitches. Sometimes these scammers directly ask for money. Other times they are fishing for personal information that they can later use. The door-to-door census scams are just typical examples.
How to Avoid Door-to-Door Scams After Opening Your Door
#1 Don't be Afraid to Say "No!"
Scammers disguised as door-to-door salesperson won't skip your home even if you put up no solicitation signs. Often, they use this as a way to determine who is home or not.
In such cases, be ready to refuse decisively before you open the door. The more time you give to the door-to-door salesperson to speak, the more likely you will end up falling victim to a sales scam.
#2 Never Let the Salesperson in
Some door-to-door salespersons are actually burglars and might try to enter your house to look around your home an plan for a future burglary.
Don't let the salesperson in especially if you are at home alone. Shut the door or call Campus Security if the door-to-door salesperson is being intrusive or making you feel uncomfortable.
#3 Never Pay in Cash
Though it is best not to engage with door-to-door sales, if you really need the door-to-door products or service, do not to pay in cash.
Normally, the legitimate door-to-door sellers should provide you with a cancellation form along with the receipt. If they don't, assume you've been marked for a door-to-door sales scam.
The FTC's Cooling-Off Rule allows you to cancel a sale made at your home within three business days and you can get a full refund on most purchases of $25 or more.
#4 Be Wary of Contract Documents
One of the common door-to-door scams is that you may be offered a contract with many hidden fees.
To avoid buyer's remorse, give yourself enough time to read the documents thoroughly and make sure you understand each terms fully.
You may ask the door-to-door salesman to leave the document and call him back after mature consideration. Never sign any agreement when you feel pressured to do so. If the salesperson is unwilling to give you time to review the contract on your own, do not sign it.
#5 Call Campus Security
If you feel you have become a victim of certain door-to-door sales scams, contact Campus Security. Security will assist you with filing a door-to-door scam complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Do remember that the door-to-door sales are so not so urgent that you need to make the decision at once. If you are interested in the door-to-door salesperson's product, ask them to leave the information and return later so that you have enough time to check their credentials.
Your best defense is to not answer the door in the first place, but that may be unrealistic. By following these tips, you will greatly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a door-to-door ruse.
If you encounter or observe a suspicious person or anyone who makes you uncomfortable. Go to a safe location and call Campus Security immediately.
Call x5000 on campus (626) 395-5000 from your cell phone or if you are off campus) or call 911.
Thank you for your vigilance,
Caltech Campus Security