Door to door sales fraud is not new. “The Music Man,” the 1957 Broadway hit about a door-to-door salesman ostensibly in the music business, reminds us that the salesman/con-artist was a familiar trope already sixty years ago, and undoubtedly was so long before that. Many of us have at one time or another responded to a salesperson knocking at the door. With a (usually) well-practiced pitch and a penchant for stubborn insistence, salespeople are pretty hungry to make the sale. One recurring, classic variation of door-to-door sales fraud involves bogus salespeople claiming to be selling a completely legitimate product—a product, that in fact, will not get delivered, or will get delivered, but only after the con artist has taken more money than agreed upon from the victim.
A recent incident is illustrative of this daily crime: A woman was asked to make a donation by a man claiming to be selling books and magazines for charity. At one point during the visit, the victim offered him her credit card so she could make a payment of $30. After the transaction had taken place, the victim discovered she had been charged $495.
Ronald Noble, founder of RKN Global, urges everyone to be vigilant when answering the door for a salesperson. Many fraudsters will use tactics that appear genuine, and do what they can to get your money..
One solution to the problem of door-to-door salespeople is to ensure you ask for a form of identification before handing money over. Legitimate sellers will be happy to let you check their identification, . The same goes for those to claiming to sell products or raise money for charity . Nothing is foolproof, however. It is not above and beyond fraudsters to create fake IDs, so you will need to use caution when looking at any ID that is presented to you. If you are in any doubt, politely refuse the offer, and close and lock your door.
Another tactic that you can use is to mention that you want to discuss the offer with other family members. Legitimate sellers will not have an issue with this, but fraudsters will, and may therefore pressure you into committing then and there. A genuine seller or fundraiser will likely accept your refusal and walk away; a fraudulent one may or may not. If at any time during the conversation you feel under pressure, remember to feel free to politely and quickly end the conversation and close and lock the door.
Some fraudulent salespeople insist on payment in cash. Others, in an attempt to gain trust, will accept a check, but this is likely to happen only when the banks are open, ensuring they can cash the check right away.
Other tactics used by fraudsters can involve using pressure to get you to agree to a sale. They may also tell you that repairs need to be undertaken on your home, quoting you a large price for the work. Genuine sellers will not tell you that some aspect of your home needs to be repaired immediately; they will usually wait for you to call them, or simply place an ad through your mailbox.
The good news is that we can all take steps to protect ourselves from falling victim to door-to-door scams. If you hear a knock at the door, think about whether you are expecting someone to visit. If you are not expecting anyone, try to determine who may be at the door before you open it. Take a look through any windows that face the door, look through the door’s peep-hole, or simply ignore the knock.
Another way to protect yourself from door-to-door sales people is to put up a sign that states uninvited solicitors are not welcome. A sign such as this tells the seller that they need not knock at your door, as you will not answer.
RKN Global’s founder, Ronald K. Noble underlines the importance of care when opening the front door to strangers, for both safety reasons not addressed in this article, as well as fraud concerns. Genuine salespeople will usually politely accept your refusal to purchase and walk away, whereas fraudsters may continue to use pressure. The safest approach, of course, is to decline the solicitations of strangers under all circumstances.