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Scam Alert

6 Common Door-to-Door Scams

With autumn comes a rise in front-door fraud involving magazines, meat and maintenance

While other fast-buck fraudsters come and go quickly, woodchucks prefer to stick around, finding one "necessary repair" after another to continue your financial hemorraging.

Most good contractors are too busy to seek business at your front door.

5. Voter surveys and registration. With the upcoming election, expect campaign workers seeking your support — and maybe some "survey takers" seeking your opinions. You'll know it's a con if they solicit personal information such as your Social Security number or financial details. Canvassers from legitimate voter registration campaigns will leave forms for you to return to the relevant agency yourself. They won't ask you to fill the forms on the spot and hand them over.

6. Medical wellness checks. Over-60 communities are especially ripe for door-to-door offers of free medical checkups. The problem is that they may be conducted by crooks looking to glean personal or Medicare information or to do a quick robbery while you're off to the medicine cabinet to show them your prescriptions.

Bottom line for all these cons: When in doubt, keep strangers out. You're under no obligation even to answer the doorbell. If you do, never offer access to your home or wallet. Never provide answers to personal questions. Better to be rude than scammed.

Legitimate door-to-door vendors, including those collecting for charities, will usually have "leave-behind" materials for your review. With a phone call or Internet search, you can judge whether the outfit's legitimate.

And if you buy from a door-to-door seller and quickly regret it, know that federal law allows you three business days to cancel and get a full refund on most purchases of $25 or more that are made in your home. Along with a receipt, legitimate door-to-door sellers should provide you with a cancellation form. If they don't, assume you've been marked for a scam.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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