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Door to Door Scams
Millions of dollars are lost every year to door-to-door scammers so here are some of their tricks and how you can respond to them.

What is a scam?

Australians lose large amounts of money each year by believing and investing in scams. Door-to-door predators constantly develop new ways to re-invent old scams, including false promises of lottery wins, once-only offers of instant wealth or effortless 'work-from-home' jobs.

Don't be fooled. If someone comes to your door or phones you with an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Typically, scammers will ask you to accept their offer on the spot and ask for either a deposit or full payment, in cash or by credit card. They seldom accept cheques as they can easily be cancelled later. They will fail to tell you about your legal rights, including any cooling-off period.

Door-to-door scammers may offer services as well as goods, such as roof repair, home or garden maintenance, or discounted telephone services. Sometimes they pretend to be conducting a survey.

Normally, they are uninvited. They are not visitors but seek to take advantage of the courtesy offered by home owners to visitors. I n some cases they may claim to represent a reputable charity. Their preference is to target someone home alone. At worst, a door-knocker's real purpose could be to prepare for a subsequent break-in to your home.

Door to Door Scams

What to look for

There are two simple rules for protecting yourself against scams:
  • Learn to recognise scams from genuine offers; and
  • Know how to combat a scammer's tricks.
  • The Australian Government's Little Black Book of Scams (a consumer's guide to scams, swindles, rorts and rip-offs found on www.consumersonline.gov.au) provides some of common techniques used by con-artists to gain your confidence.
  • Sense of obligation - They may give you something like a free gift or offer of assistance in order to get you to agree to something later on, preying on your sense of obligation.
  • Commitment and consistency - They may get you to commit to something early on and later recall that agreement to get you agree to something further.
  • Social proof - They may tell you that everyone else does it, so it must be right.
  • Attractiveness - The scammer usually looks highly presentable, may profess similar interests and background and offer other friendly characteristics.  These are a con-artist's tools-of-trade as well as being characteristics of honest people who want to generate a good rapport with you. Try to separate the issue on offer from the person making the offer to you.
  • Authority - Authority, in or out of uniform, will cause an automatic response in most people. People appeal to and use authority to justify or support their case and the scammer does it deliberately to hoodwink you into an agreement. Ask yourself whether the authority is relevant to the offer being made.
  • Scarcity - The scammer may try to make you fear missing out. Being told that this is the last chance or that there are only a few left available, may lead to a hasty agreement.

These influence strategies are used by con-artists to manipulate us, so try to recognise these psychological triggers. And remember, by law, any salesperson who turns up on your doorstep must leave when you tell them to leave.

Door to Door Scams


If you suspect you are being scammed, try these responses:
  • "No, not now, I need to think about it."
  • "No, I want to get other quotes first."
  • "No, I don't need this item now. I always discuss purchases with my partner - or some other person who is not present)."
  • Say no to any offer that makes you feel uncomfortable or puts you under
    pressure or where you may be unsure or fearful. If you are frightened or feel
    intimidated, excuse yourself and phone a trusted neighbour or the police.
  • If you suspect foul play, report it to the police or to the relevant consumer 
    protection agency.
  • If you think the salesperson is preying on your emotions (fear, need, curiosity or sense of obligation) tell them to leave.
  • Beware of claims such as "your roof needs painting" or "your vacuum cleaner doesn't work properly". Thank them for pointing this out and say you're going to get independent advice to check these claims.

Door to Door Scams

  • Salespeople are required to show their company identification. Make a written
    note of the person's and the company's name, address and telephone number.
  • Never accept door-to-door quotes at face value. Ask if there is a charge for
  • Before you sign anything ask yourself, and ask your family, whether you really need what you are being offered.
  • Make sure you know the full cost, including delivery.
  • Ask about a warranty, and get it in writing.
  • If the person claims to represent a charity or a fund-raising organisation, ask for  identification. Better still, offer to pay later so that you can check their details.
  • Beware of surveys. Ask for identification. Surveys are often a means to ask for  an appointment for a salesperson to call. If you accept, make sure you know the name and address of the person and the company.
  • Make sure that the decision is your own and that you are properly protected.
  • When goods or services are purchased in NSW through door-to-door sales for an amount over $100, the law provides for a 5 day cooling-off period. This means  you can cancel the contract within 5 clear business days. The trader must give  you a written document outlining your right to cancel and how to exercise it in case you change your mind.
  • State courts will defend the rights of consumers when 'unconscionable conduct' occurs, but this doesn't always mean you get your money back.


A final word

If you knew a certain way to make quick money, would you tell anyone? So why should a complete stranger come knocking on your door to tell you?