Home Repair and Improvement Schemes:
- Be wary of strangers who approach you with requests or offers whether by mail, by phone, or in person.
- Get several detailed written estimates for any work. Ask friends, neighbors, or relatives for recommendations of reputable firms or people. Compare the job descriptions and materials between the different estimates. Find out if companies charge for estimates before you ask for one.
- Be sure to get a guarantee in writing for any work that is to be done.
- Never pay money before the agreed upon job has begun. Inspect the work to make sure that it was done properly. Pay only in installments and never in cash.
- Ask for old parts or equipment to make sure that replacements were really installed.
Door-to-Door and Other Consumer Frauds:
- Regarding door-to-door sales, the Federal Trade Commission protects consumers in one very important way. Whenever a purchase is made in the home totaling $25.00 or more, the salesperson is required to give the homeowner a written contract and two "Notice of Cancellation" forms. The customer is allowed three days to change his/her mind and use one of the forms to cancel the contract.
- If in doubt, wait and think about it. This provides time to weigh advantages and disadvantages, check with other sources, and compare additional estimates.
- Read every contract thoroughly before signing it. Be sure that you understand all of the language and conditions and check to see that all of the blanks on the contract are filled in. If something is unclear, do not rely on the salesperson’s explanation; ask for time to consult with an attorney or someone else. If the salesperson makes promises, make certain that they are written into the contract.
- Obtain a receipt for all transactions.
- Before signing a contract or authorizing any contract work, check on the reputation and history of all salespeople or companies by contacting the local Consumer Affairs Office. Ask for company references and check them.
- Always be suspicious of high-pressure sales efforts and comparison shop for all services or products.
- Pay by check rather than by cash. This will provide a written record of the transaction. Always make the check payable to the company and not to the salesperson.
- Beware of false or misleading advertising with regards to discounts, sales, or free gifts. Compare these bargains with merchandise at other businesses.
- Check the identification of strangers before any kind of business deal. Call their company or agency to confirm that they are legitimate; look up the company in the telephone book rather than calling the phone number that is supplied by the sales associate.
- City employees do not demand cash from citizens to continue municipal services.
- Never withdraw cash from a bank at the suggestion of strangers. Legitimate bank and law enforcement officials will never ask someone to withdraw from their savings in order to observe how a "suspected bank employee" handles the transaction.
- Any offer suggesting something for nothing or at a surprisingly low cost, is a good tip-off to a con game. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not get involved in schemes involving "found" money, which others will share with you upon your producing "good faith" cash.
- Check with doctors, local health clinics, or medical societies before buying or submitting to "cures" for disease or injury.
- Be aware that quacks with mail order medical diplomas operating out of store front offices, bilk consumers out of millions of dollars each year and at best delay proper treatment to those suffering from illness or injury. Know who you are dealing with and be suspicious of those promising cures for chronic or incurable medical conditions.
- Only go to the medical laboratories and clinics that are recommended by a physician or hospital.
- Plan in advance. Decisions about the funeral ceremony, casket, and burial are better made prior to a death, under non-emotional circumstances.
- Comparison shop. As with other purchases, it can save money. Review any contract thoroughly and be sure all terms and conditions are clearly understood.
- After selecting a reputable funeral home, leave written instructions for funeral arrangements.
- If plans have not been made in advance, take along someone who is more removed from the deceased and can be more objective in assisting in the funeral arrangements.
- Do not give out personal information on the telephone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you have contacted the business. Legitimate organizations with which you do business will have the information they need and will not ask you for it.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. A missing statement from the bank could mean that someone has taken over your accounts. Also, check for charges on your bills that you didn’t sign for, didn’t authorize, and don’t know anything about.
- Guard your mail from theft. Deposit your outgoing mail in a post office collection box or at your local post office. Always remove delivered mail from your mailbox in a timely manner. If you discover that you are a victim of mail theft, report it to your local postal inspector immediately.
- Keep items with your personal information in a hidden and safe place in your home.
- Don’t carry your social security card on your person; leave it in a secure place.
- If someone has stolen your identity, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you take three actions immediately:
- Contact the fraud departments of each of the three major credit bureaus. Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, Experian: 1-800-397-3742, and Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289.
- Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a report with your local police department.
- Be aware of on-line advertisements promising much more than can be delivered such as quick-and-easy weight loss products. These overstated claims of product effectiveness are usually too good to be true.
- Be wary of the "900" telephone pay-per-call services that promise high profits for a minimal investment.
- The frequent use of the word "hot" and the claims of having "inside" information are both warning signs of an on-line scam.
- Many scam artists advertise work-at-home schemes involving the use of a personal computer to make money. Often times, these claims of potential earnings are exaggerated.
- Never provide your credit card number or any information of personal nature in any on-line transaction.
Fraud Resource Numbers
Portland Police Bureau: 9-1-1 for reporting a crime involving fraud.
Better Business Bureau: 503-226-3981 for business complaints or inquiries.
Attorney General’s Office consumer Complaint Line: 503-229-5576 (Portland) or 1-503-378-4320 (Salem) to check business complaint histories, obtain a complaint form, or to request fraud prevention information. Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Construction Contractors Board: 503-378-4621 ext. 4900. Call for information concerning home improvement scams.
National Fraud Information Center: 1-800-876-7060. A free consumer assistance service for filing complaints about scams and frauds, including on-line scams.