There you are sitting quietly at home watching television or reading a magazine when your doorbell rings. You answer your door and there is a man who says to you “we were installing gutters on your neighbor’s home and wanted to offer you a special deal.” He then goes on to explain why you should install gutters or gutter guards on your home and offers to do the work right away “since we are already here.” You had been thinking about having gutters installed on your new house and this deal sounds good to you, but what are the signs this might be a scam?
- Beware of special offers and salesmen who want to use your home as a “model” in exchange for a bargain rate.
- Beware of offers that are only good if you sign up today.
- Beware if the salesman says that he stopped at your home because not having gutters is a serious problem that must be taken care of immediately.
- Beware of sales pitches like “while we’re in the neighborhood” or “we have some extra materials left over from a job down the street.”
- Beware of any salesman that wants payment in advance.
- Beware of any salesman that wants payment in cash.
Most legitimate gutter salesmen are too busy to conduct door-to-door sales or even to do phone sales, but in some regions a new legitimate company may do this as a way to build its customer base. So, what do you do to protect yourself from being scammed?
- Ask the salesman for an ID. They should present a company ID with the name of the saleman, a photo of the salesman and the company name & address.
- Always check if the company has a permanent address and phone number. (Call the number and/or check the business address on Google maps). Most legitimate businesses do not work out of a pickup truck with only a cell phone.
- Ask for names and numbers of previous clients and call those customers and ask about the service they received.
- Ask if the company is insured (at least for liability and workers’ compensation) and ask for a copy of their insurance certificate.
- Always have a written & signed contract for any work that is to be done. An “oral agreement” is not worth much when things go wrong.
- Before signing the contract, contact the North Carolina Consumer Protection Division (1-877-5-NOSCAM) and ask if there are any complaints against the company.
- Near the signature line on the contract there should be a statement that essentially reads: “You, the buyer, may cancel this transaction at any time prior to midnight of the third business day after the date of this transaction. See the attached Notice of Cancellation form for an explanation of this right.” There should also be a separate document titled “Notice of Cancellation.” This statement and document are required under the Consumer Protection Act and the North Carolina Retail Installment Sales Act. If the contract does not contain these two item, DO NOT SIGN.
Do not make snap decisions when it comes to home improvement or repairs. In the long run you are best protected by using only legitimate contractors for this work who are permanently established, back up their work, and available to deal with any future issues you may have. Take the time to investigate any company you use.