Be smart with door-to-door sales

Tina Bridenstine
The Shawnee News-Star

Whether it's related to home security, home improvement or other reasons, residents of cities all over the country, including here in Shawnee, often hear a knock at the door and find a sales person on the other side.

Here are some tips to find out if a door-to-door salesman is legitimate, and how to prevent being the victim of a scam if they aren't.

Caution and verification

Just because a person knocks at the door doesn't mean the resident is obligated to answer. The Consumer Federation of America, in an article about door-to-door scams, offered a reminder about this, adding that residents should also not allow sales people into the home unless there is a pre-scheduled appointment.

Those who do speak with sales people should take the time to verify their identity.

According to the CFA, if a sales person claims to represent a current utility or security provider, the resident should take the time to call the phone number listed on a bill (and not a number provided by the sales person) to verify if they have sent a representative and for what reason.

According to Cpl. Vivian Lozano with the Shawnee Police Department, all sales people are required to have a permit from the city of Shawnee with their information and business information.

The Shawnee city code states, “Every solicitor, peddler, itinerant merchant/transient street vendor and coupon book seller and any employee of a solicitor, peddler, itinerant merchant/transient street vendor and coupon book seller shall exhibit the license issued at the request of any person.”

Many businesses also require their sales people to carry identification, and sometimes have a place on the company website to verify a sales person. If in doubt, a resident can look the company up online to find out how to contact them to confirm a sales person is legitimate.

If in doubt, Lozano said, “Citizens can call dispatch and an officer will be sent to check on them and make sure they are legit.”

Dos and don'ts

CFA and AARP offered several tips for residents to avoid falling for scams. Some of them include:

• Don't fall for high-pressure sales tactics, and feel free to say “I'm not interested” and close the door if feeling pressured.

• Don't sign any contracts or make any purchases right away. Ask for written materials, and take the time to research and review before making any decisions.

• Don't pay in cash.

• Get information in writing, including prices, warranties and cancellation policies.

• Never offer access to your home or your wallet.

• Don't give answers to personal questions, including, “Do you live alone?”

What to do if you've already bought a service and regret it

If a person has paid for a service and changed their mind, the Federal Trade Commission's “Cooling Off Rule” states that buyers have a right to cancel a door-to-door purchase of $25 or more within three business days and receive a full refund.

If scammed or poorly serviced by a business, residents can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

According to AARP, some common door-to-door scams include magazine subscription sales, meat sales, “free” energy audits, outdoor home maintenance, voter surveys and registrations, and medical wellness checks.

For more information on the city code, visit library.municode.com/ok/shawnee/codes/code_of_ordinances . Information about permits for door-to-door sales people can be found under Chapter 8: Businesses, permits and licenses, Article 3: Peddlers, solicitors and itinerant merchants.

For more information about different types of scams and how to prevent falling victim, visit www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/

For more information from the CFA about door-to-door scams, visit consumerfed.org/protect-yourself-from-door-to-door-sales-scams/