Here’s how to avoid scams from door-to-door solicitations

The Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints each year from consumers who unknowingly fall for scamming door-to-door solicitors.

While many door-to-door salespeople are honest, the BBB receives troubling complaints from consumers who bought items like magazines that never came, cosmetics and photography of inferior quality, even meat that was no good. The BBB warns that deceptive door-to-door sellers are looking to make a quick buck, and they’re on the rise.

BBBs across the country are receiving hundreds of complaints and thousands of inquiries about companies selling door to door. Sellers often use high-pressure sales tactics that can have anyone falling victim. Unscrupulous marketers sometimes trick consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for items they don’t want or can’t afford. Oftentimes their presentations are so slick that consumers aren’t even aware that they have actually made a purchase.

The BBB offers these tips on dealing with high pressure, door-to-door sellers:

Magazine subscriptions: BBBs have already received more than 800 complaints in 2017 against magazine sales companies. The most common complaint received involves consumers paying for magazines they never receive. Several consumers allege that the sales representative misled them by claiming to work for a local school or charity fundraiser.

Food products: Sales representatives knock on doors selling produce or meat products, claiming their prices are much lower than grocery stores. Consumer complaints allege that their orders never arrive, or are not of the high quality originally promised.

Home security systems: The BBB often receives complaints about companies that falsely claim to be working with or for your existing security company. Under the pretense of upgrading your contract, they sign you to a new contract with their company. Now you’re committed to having two companies perform the work of one. And getting double billed. Other issues include salespeople who tell you that your current company has gone out of business, or your current system is outdated and is about to stop working

Other industries employing door-to-door sales tactics that the BBB receives the most complaints about are cosmetics, photography and cleaning supply companies. If visited by a door-to-door sales representative, the BBB recommends consumers do the following:

Be safe. Ask for identification before you open the door. Never invite the solicitor into your home. Remember that you don’t have to answer the door at all and that if you ask that person to leave and they do not, they are then trespassing and you should contact the local police or sheriff’s department.

Be wary of high pressure sales tactics. A trustworthy company should let you take time to think about the purchase and compare prices before buying or putting down a deposit.

Get transaction details in writing. Be sure you receive a contract or receipt explaining the details of your purchase and all the terms and conditions that apply.

Remember the “three-day cooling-off rule.” The Federal Trade Commission’s three-day cooling-off rule gives consumers three days to cancel many purchases made in their home. Along with a receipt, the salesperson should always provide a cancellation form that can be sent to the company to cancel the purchase within three days. We recommend mailing the notice in a way that allows you to have proof of delivery.

Listen carefully and be aware of high pressure sales tactics. Some unscrupulous door-to-door sellers will put pressure on you to close the deal at that moment and even make special offers to entice you. Listen to their tone. Are they increasing in volume as they speak to you? Are they ignoring you despite saying you are not interested? Find a way to end the conversation quickly to avoid long, drawn-out sales pitches.

If you see suspicious sales people canvasing your neighborhood, report it to your local police department’s nonemergency number. This allows them to ensure that the person is properly licensed to solicit door-to-door sales and not wanted by authorities in other cities. If everything checks out, they are then free to carry on their day. If not, then you have just saved your neighbors from losing their hard-earned money.

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Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau, serving 83 counties in portions of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. The column is provided by the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The BBB sets standards for ethical business behavior, monitors compliance and helps consumers identify trustworthy businesses. Questions or complaints about a company or charity should be referred to the BBB at 1-800-763-4222, or by email to