Is Someone Ringing My Doorbell Again? Is This Really Happening? Stay in Control, Protect, Research, Verify, and Report
Research shows there are two types of people: Those who trust folks until they violate their trust and others who believe trust must be earned. For those of us who trust immediately, it may be difficult to believe there are people out there making a living out of deceiving or scamming others. Scams across the globe are so prevalent government agencies have names for them. Have you heard of the Utility Company Cut Off Scam, the Property Line Scam, “My Leg Went Through Your Roof, Sir,” or the Toilet Bowl Scam? It all begins with a knock on the door.
Imagine the dog barking and someone is at your front door. You look through the peephole and see an official looking person wearing a badge who has tools in his hands. He says your utilities need to be turned off immediately unless you call the office with a credit card number, or give him cash. You forgot to pay the bill, or perhaps there is a mix up with your bill, but either way the utilities need to be turned off today.
Or let’s say the official looking person needs to check the property line. Someone is interested in buying the lot adjacent to yours and action must be taken immediately. You are to escort him outside to show him your estimation of where you believe each property line begins and ends. While you do, his colleague will measure the inside of your home to verify square footage for tax purposes, or to introduce you to a new energy program that you may qualify for.
Now consider a loud knock coming through the door; it is from a woman who is frantic. Her friend is pregnant and needs to go to the bathroom. They are in distress. Can you please let them in from the rain to borrow the bathroom? Or maybe the women ran out of gas down the road and they need a safe place to make a phone call.
In each of these situations, individuals or teams of people have targeted you, your home, or family. They have a goal: to take your valuables now or in the future. Some may quickly pocket money and jewelry when you are out of sight, while others may open a locked window for future use. When there are two people, one of them may be assigned to distract you while the other ransacks your home, takes your purse, electronics, identification or other items.
But what if you have hired contractors to do some work on your home and they uncover a problem? For instance, the nice man who is cleaning your gutters for a good price comes up to you and says, “Sir, my leg just went through your roof. I think you may have a problem.” The good news is that this contractor knows people who can fix your roof for a great price and they happen to be available right away. The bad news is, they aren’t who they say they are and could either lay roofing materials on a perfectly good roof, or damage your roof to the point of having to pay for another.
We all like to hire contractors that we know or who have been referred by individuals we trust. Let’s say we’ve hired someone who knows Uncle Billy and he has been working on our home all day. He takes a quick trip to the bathroom and discovers water all around your toilet. No worries, he doesn’t mind looking under your home to see if you have damage to your floor. Unfortunately, when he returns from the crawl space, he announces everything is rotted and has been damaged; he’s afraid the whole toilet may fall through if you don’t get it fixed right away.
In each of these cases, you are being scammed. According to the Sherriff and Attorney General’s office, these scams are commonplace in North Carolina. Take these five precautions now.
First, the experts would like you to recognize that this could happen to you. It could happen to anyone so please don’t be embarrassed if you have fallen victim. Next: Be in control. If you don’t know the person knocking on the door, don’t answer it. The fraud division of the Sheriff’s office would like you to call 911 if you feel uncomfortable about the knocking, even if it isn’t an emergency. Home invasions have taken place and our goal is for you to stay safe. Do not let anyone in your home you do not know and don’t allow anyone to talk you into going outside with them.
Third, always protect your numbers – your social security numbers, credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, Medicare numbers – keep your personal information private and don’t share it with others.
Fourth, verify whom you are dealing with. Do your homework and contact the Better Business Bureau or other sources prior to hiring contractors.
Finally, report it. If someone attempts to take advantage of you, whether you know them or not, tell a trusted family member, report it to the Sheriff or contact the Attorney General’s office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
In partnership with the Sheriff’s Department, we will continue this conversation at our Scams Series at the Senior Center in Louisburg on June 17th at 9 am and at the Senior Center in Franklinton on August 12. Call 919-496-3344 to sign up today and remember: Stay in control, Protect, Research, Verify, and Report.
Visit national and North Carolina websites below for more information:
http://publications.usa.gov/ – see consumer protection link
Rachel Harris Monteverdi is a Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, a division of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. The Family & Consumer Sciences department includes prenatal to end-of-life programs. Priorities for North Carolina citizens include: Family & Parenting Education; Balancing Work & Family Workshops; Academic Success; Active Aging; Planning for the Future; Home Ownership & Housing Issues; Conservation & Environmental Issues; Leadership; Emergency Management and more. Call 919-496-3344, email Rachel_Monteverdi@ncsu.edu or visit http://franklin.ces.ncsu.edu for additional information.