While door-to-door scams remain prevalent almost all year round, the types of schemes change with the seasons. As autumn arrives so do home maintenance swindlers promising to help get consumers ready for the cooler weather. There are several types of common frauds seen in the fall, the first is the famed ‘distraction burglary’. This happens when a self-proclaimed contractor knocks on the door and offers their services to clean gutters, trim trees, rake leaves, or other fall fix ups. When the consumer steps outside to talk about the job, an accomplice enters the unattended, unlocked home for a quick burglary. They’re usually looking for cash in handbags and jewelry in bedrooms.
In another form of distraction burglary the homeowner is led away from the door by a scammer posing as an employee of a utility company needing to check the meter. In the latest version the knock on the door comes from a fraudster posing as a government-sponsored weatherization program employee needing to take measurements so the homeowner can receive low-cost insulation. No matter who’s knocking on the door, consumers should refuse to invite them inside, regardless of a uniform or badge. Consumers can ask visitors to remain outside while they verify their identity by calling the company directly. If a consumer steps outside to speak with a visitor they should take their keys and lock the door behind them.
Another common fall fraud happens when self-proclaimed contractors actually do some sort of work for an inflated price. Usually the quality of the work is very poor and sometimes just a cover for what should have been done. Consumers have reported contractors spreading old motor oil on driveways and calling it ‘repaving’ and others applying paint to roof shingles and claiming they’ve repaired the roof. These contractors will either grab the money and disappear or stay and offer more and more services at exaggerated prices until the homeowner has nothing left. Homeowners are encouraged to get business cards from contractors knocking door to door and follow up with research and quotes from other contractors. Consumers should be aware of contractors who say things like “we’re in the neighborhood today” or offer very limited time deals.
Some contractors entice consumers with bargain prices for regular maintenance items like cleaning heating systems or chimneys, and then they allegedly discover problems that can cost thousands of dollars and need immediate attention. These fraudsters are known as ‘Panic Peddlers.’ Many convince consumers that they have a leak of carbon monoxide, structural damage, a worn out chimney liner that could cause a fire, or other problems that will cause a loss of heat in the coming months and must be fixed right away. Consumers should not give in to the panic and instead get a second opinion. Also look for reputable companies to preform fall maintenance instead of the lowest price. Consumers can check with their local Better Business Bureau or the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies for trustworthy companies.