The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 20, 2013

SCAM ALERT: Beware of late-night visitors

By Joanne Arbogast
The Daily Item

— SHAMOKIN DAM - Activity involving traveling thieves picks up during the springtime and residents should be alert to it, Shamokin Dam police Chief Timothy Bremigen says.

He is referring to those who go door-to-door soliciting business such as driveway paving, landscaping, house painting, roof repairs, etc.

At 9 Tueday night, Shamokin Dam police received a complaints about a black man and white woman going to private residences claiming to represent a window replacement company and attempting to schedule dates to provide price quotes.

Bremigen doesn’t know whether the window replacement company is legitimate, but said it was suspicious because it makes little sense for anyone to be trying to drum up business at that late hour.

In addition, he said no one has registered with the police department for a permit to conduct solicitation in the borough. All door-to-door salespeople must obtain permit before they are allowed to solicit residents, he said. A one-day permit costs $150.

Violate the borough ordinance and solicit business without a permit and you face a summary charge and fine of up to $300.

Home improvement complaints consistently rank among the top five complaints — and a top complaint by seniors — received by the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Replacing windows is expensive and not something most people can or should attempt to do on their own (much like paving a driveway or repairing a roof). This makes phone and door-to-door offers to do the work at bargain prices attractive to homeowners — and that makes it a popular and widespread spring-time scam.

This doesn’t mean every door-to-door salesperson is a scam artist but more often than not, the “bargain” work you end up paying for may be no bargain at all, especially if the work is never completed.

Door-to-door salespeople are skilled at persuasion — they may say their offer is good for a limited time only or that only a few property owners are being contacted and you must act quickly. They are trained to try to close the deal as soon as possible.

If you agree to an appointment, be prepared for the possibility you may end up getting harassed by a skilled salesman for hours before they will leave — or worse, get you to sign a contract and hand over a check.

How to protect yourself

Ask to see a solicitation permit.

Don’t invite strangers into your home. If they aren’t there to sell you something, they may be there to case the premises.

Don’t provide personal information such as work or activity schedules. This information reveals when you won’t be home, which could invite in a whole other kind of problem.

n Avoid acting impulsively and don’t make hasty decisions. When considering home repairs, shop around, do your homework and Call 911 or your local police department immediately if you see any suspicious activity.