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Wayne Adult Community Center

Feature article from the April, 2001 Newsletter

Beware Door-to-Door Scams and Predators

Many seniors fall prey to people offering phony “great” deals or are literally robbed by someone who comes to their door claiming to be seeking help.

SITUATIONS THAT SHOULD MAKE YOU VERY WARY

One or more people who claim that their car has broken down or that they have suffered some other calamity, and would like to come inside to use your phone.  Offer to make the call for them while they wait outside your locked door.

The person who shows up unannounced, saying that he is from a local utility and that he needs to test your water or electricity.  Ask for credentials, and in any case call the utility for verification.

The home-repairman who comes to your door and tells you "I have materials left over from a job I just completed", that he "noticed your house needs work", and that he can give you a special price on the work if you save him the trouble of bringing the materials back to the office.  Don't bite.

Anyone who claims to be offering a special deal that is available only if you make the commitment immediately.  First of all, don't believe the deadline.  Especially if the purchase is substantial, you should certainly take a day or two to think it over, no matter how good it sounds.

Anyone who demands payment in cash.  Always pay by credit card, don't even use a check because checks give you little more protection than cash does.

Anyone who appeals to your sympathy, for instance by indicating that if you don't purchase their product you are depriving your family of something wonderful, or that their own family might go hungry.

Anyone who uses high pressure.

Anyone who demands a substantial deposit .   They may say they need the money to buy materials.  If their suppliers don't trust them, probably you shouldn't either.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO

Sign a contract ONLY if (a) it has NO blank spaces "to be filled in later"; (b) there are at least two copies, one of which you will receive before the salesperson leaves your house; (c) you fully understand ALL clauses - Do not accept the salesperson's explanation, especially if it seems to contradict what you see in writing, or to offer more than the printed clause.  Verbal explanations and promises can be denied after the fact, and are  therefore worthless.

If you do wimp out and sign something immediately, in response to a door-to-door pitch, you have a right under federal law to cancel the deal within three business days and receive  a FULL refund within ten business days of the cancellation.  Along with your contract or receipt, you should be given two copies of a cancellation form that you only need to sign, date and mail.  Do not accept a promise that the cancellation forms will be sent or given to you later.

The right described above (given to you by the Federal Trade Commission's "Cooling Off Rule") applies to purchases of $25 or more, and ends at midnight of the third business day after the sale.  If you do cancel, send the form by certified mail, return receipt.  Make sure that it will be postmarked before the deadline.

This rule only applies to sales made in person at your home (or sometimes at temporary facilities such as hotel rooms, convention centers, fairgrounds and restaurants).  However, it does NOT apply to most car sales.

If You Have a Problem, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission by toll-free phone at
1-877-FTC-HELP.

W. A. Shapiro


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10/13/2001 830