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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

En español  |  Door-to-door scams are among the most common crimes against people 60 and older. Why so? Retirement-age folks are more likely to be home to answer the door during the day. Usually raised to be polite, they're less likely to slam the door. And when scammed, they're less likely to report it to police or other authorities.

So don't be a victim. Keep an eye out for these common forms of front-door fraud.

1. Magazine subscription sales. You answer your door and there's a solicitor asking you to subscribe to magazines and pay with a credit card or check. In autumn it's often described as a fundraiser for a local school. You're told it's a bargain, but often the rates are three times what you'd normally pay, and even then the magazines may never arrive.

A man peers through a keyhole representing door-to-door sales scams.

Adults 50+ are frequent targets of door-to-door sales scams. — Istockphoto

The Better Business Bureau is predicting that in 2012, complaints about magazine sales will be double the number of 2011. This follows the Federal Trade Commission receiving more than 21,000 such complaints last year, double the number in 2010.

2. Meat sales. Knock, knock — this time what's on offer is prime ribs. The BBB and other groups warn that people who buy meat this way, paying up front, often complain that their orders never arrive or that the quality of what does show up is substandard.

With meat prices expected to increase in 2013 (the summer drought devastated the corn crop that's fed to livestock), you can expect these vendors to press you to "buy now" to avoid predicted hikes.

3. "Free" energy audits. Just in time for the winter heating season, self-described utility-company workers show up at your door unannounced, saying they've come to conduct a gratis inspection to see how much energy your home wastes.

Once inside, they may try to steal, especially if they've come as a pair; one diverts you while the other scoops up valuables. So unless your utility company has asked you, in advance, if you want an audit, assume it's a scam.

Meanwhile, the latest spin on this ruse: Audits offered by home-improvement hucksters who want to sell you services you probably don't need.

4. Outdoor home maintenance. Whether they're offering roof repairs or driveway recoating, handymen hustlers proliferate in the fall. The most notorious are "woodchucks," who get their name for their frequent initial pitch to prune your trees before winter snowfalls.

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