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Door-to-door scams bloom in summertime

'Tis the season for door-to-door scams. When somebody you don't know comes a'knocking with a service you didn't ask for, beware!

By Mitch Lipka Jul 15, 2013 5:26PM
Image: Privacy (© Beathan/Corbis)Think twice before answering if someone you don't know comes knocking on your front door. Best best: Don't open the door.

But if you can't resist the temptation, at least wear your skeptical hat. As appealing as the pitches might seem -- many are honed and well-rehearsed -- these folks are not coming to your door to do you a favor.

Summer is prime time for the door-to-door sales pitch, which can come in many forms. Here are a few:
  • The contractor who drove by and happened to notice you could use a little work on your roof, siding, or whatever.
  • The paving company that has a bit of extra asphalt on the truck and will cut you a deal to resurface your driveway.
  • The magazine subscription seller, who is going door-to-door to help pay college tuition, supplement a military salary, or collecting for a charity.

All the pitches sound so believable. And all are fraught with peril for consumers. Here's some idea of what you can expect if you do answer and some alternatives if you are actually interested in the types of services being offered.

In the contractor scenario, you're likely to end up with an unlicensed, uninsured outfit that has no intention of finishing work at your home. What they will want is some money upfront to get the work rolling. They might stick around for a day. They might never show up to work. They might do the work, but not in any way you'll be satisfied with.

What to do: If a contractor you don't know swings by to offer his or her services -- and you have work you need done -- take a step back. If they're only available to be hired right then and there, this is no deal for you. You need to check into the legitimacy of anyone you're going to hire to do work at your home. That means seeing whether they are legitimate and established, have whatever licenses and insurance are needed where you live, and have references you can verify by stopping by to see the work.

Itinerant work crews often travel throughout the summer -- they tend to be drawn to areas that have been storm-damaged -- trolling for jobs. So watch out, and shop around when you need the services of a contractor.

When it comes to paving, you shouldn't have to look very hard to find an established business nearby that does this sort of work.

What to do: Check out the company on the Better Business Bureau site or through your local consumer affairs office to see if there have been complaints. Should a random paving truck happen to stop at the end of your driveway with a price too tempting to resist -- resist. This time-tested scam reappears over and over again in community after community around the country. The price will rise far beyond what it might have seemed (and beyond reasonable) and there will be a demand for cash.

As for subscription sellers, as benign as they might seem, they can be trouble. too. Warnings about them are pretty common.

What to do: If you really want a magazine subscription or to send one as a gift, check out the many discount subscription services out there -- you can even trade frequent flyer miles for subscriptions -- or go to the magazines themselves to see what deals are available -- and these days there are many. As sweet and innocent as many of these door-to-door sellers might seem, they're often the perpetrators or accomplices of a scam. It's simple: they collect your payment and you receive nothing.

So, if you need some work done or want to order something -- do it on your own terms, not just because someone just knocked on your door.

More from MSN Money:

Jul 16, 2013 2:43PM
as a former contractor I once was approached by a homeowner shopping for roof shingles at a roofing distributer. He had the nerve to ask me for a cheaper price on installing his roof. I told him if he would carry the shingles up and place them on the roof , we could possibley work out a lower price. his response was if I am satisfied with your work I will PAY YOU . I informed him he could stick his job where the SUN doesn't shine. Home owners like him aren't that rare anymore!  this actually happened to me. BECAUSE  of all the laborers here in AMERICA 50 MILLION WHO work so cheap I was eventually forced out of busIness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! my workers were all AMERICAN. AS YOU CAN SEE MY HANDLE IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE FED UP AMERICAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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