Ever since we were young we were always told, don’t talk to strangers. Fortunately as we grow older we learn that not only is it necessary to do so (and most people are honest & good) we also develop some street smarts to go along with it for those that aren’t so trustworthy. Unfortunately while we are developing our street smarts, the bad guys out there are also developing their methods. Nowhere is this more apparent than where we feel our safest – the home.
One of the newest methods which planted the seed for this week’s piece was a piece by Fox News in Providence & what some groups are calling the “Energy Audit Scam.” So let’s start off with the reported piece and then how avoid this & other issues. (sorry for the ad)
As many of us know, this really isn’t to new of a scam as this piece from ABC in Texas over 2 years ago shows…
What I do find interesting is the progression of the “scam” reaching new levels just like peoples knowledge of what a real energy audit entails. The one in Texas started off as a phone call & a 20 minute “audit” while the newer ones required a little more finesse & time spent. While it appears some have been taken for money unfortunately, the word is getting out in those areas (and across the US via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc…) to help prevent others from being taken. Fortunately in these cases, the scams seem to be limited to salesmen selling & one unlicensed con artist posing as a contractor, and not the other variety that use these to scope out your house, the security system &/or you.
Common Tips & Reminders:
- The peephole or side light is your friend – this allows you to see if you know who it is on the other side of the door
- All utility companies, police officers, postal employees, and major package delivery drivers carry id – make you ask to see it & make sure it matches the individual in question. If in doubt or they make you uneasy, do not open the door & call the police if they don’t leave
- If someone you don’t know or were not expecting calls you, emails you, or shows up at your door use your head. Verify the information & identity before you just open up your door or invite them over
- Be aware that criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering flowers or some other type of gift to gain entry
- For multi-tenant buildings, never admit a person you do not recognize & claims to be visiting another resident of your building or working on the building in – refer them to the manager
- See someone strange loitering around, report it to the police
Special Situations / Scams:
Emergency calls; This one has been dwindling down as almost everyone has a cell phone and has wised up; but if someone you don’t know comes to your door saying they just had a terrible accident and needs to use your phone – do not open the door. It is best to offer to call 911 for them, so that they can return to the scene and wait for help to arrive.
Fundraisers and salesmen; if a person comes to your door asking for money for a charity or wanting to sell something ask what it is, & if you are not interested simply state that. If you are interested, ask them to show identification first, before you open the door, or request that they leave literature for you to read. Be advised that most legitimate charities don’t use door-to-door tactics & if you do want to contribute to one, verify it via the BBB &/or other means
Just remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch whether it is a roofing inspection, energy audit, aluminum siding. Yes some utilities & programs do offer “free” or reduced audits & while some are not even worth that, while a few can be like hitting a gold mine depending on the company & auditor involved – so do your due diligence.(For more: What’s in a Price – Energy Audit Costs)