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Tok-Tokkie Take Caution and Ding-Dong Ditch These 4 Dangerous Door-to-Door Scams

12:00am & Tips and Advice

Knock, knock...Who’s there?

Scammer...Scammer who?

Scammer who is going to steal all your money, valuables, and personal information.

Door-to-door scams are no joke.

The global average for financial crime is already at a whopping 49 percent. However, the average financial crime in South Africa is even higher, sitting at a shocking 77 percent.

With such alarming statistics like these, it is abundantly clear that financial fraud and scams are a serious issue not just in South Africa but on a global scale.

Learn how you can close the door on your days of being scammed by learning about 4 common door-to-door scams to be aware of, tell-tale signs that you are being scammed, and overall safety measures you can take to protect yourself from future scams.

4 Common Door-to-Door Scams That You Should Dodge

1. The Rip-Off Repair Scam

Home repair scams are fraudulent schemes where individuals or companies offer home repair or improvement services but either provide subpar work, overcharge for services, or fail to complete the job altogether.

Regardless of whether your home actually needs them or not, scammers will recommend services such as roof repairs, driveway paving, or landscaping at a discounted rate.

They often use high-pressure tactics, demand upfront payments, and perform shabby or unnecessary work.

If they find someone especially kind or trusting who they feel they can take advantage of, a one-time job can easily become a year-long project because as soon as they "fix” one issue, conveniently, another issue suddenly appears in your home that “needs to be fixed.”

2. The Information-Stealing Survey Scam

The survey door-to-door scam is a deceptive practice where individuals approach residents at their homes, claiming to be conducting surveys or collecting information for research purposes.

Once they engage the homeowner in conversation, the scammers will proceed to ask a series of seemingly innocent questions, such as demographic information, household income, or lifestyle preferences.

Scammers may then try to smoothly transition from these “survey” questions to more personal questions soliciting sensitive financial information, such as credit card details, bank account numbers, or Social Security numbers.

If a person is giving too little information, withholding important information, or is justifiably showing signs of hesitation to provide this kind of information to a complete stranger, one common tactic that is used is to claim that the survey is anonymous or for statistical purposes.

This tactic is extremely effective in gaining the trust of the resident, which encourages them to share more personal information under the impression of confidentiality and/or anonymity.

Other effective tactics they might try are claiming that this personal information is necessary for verification and providing incentives to get the information they need from you, such as fake gift cards or prizes.

Under the guise of conducting a survey, scammers increase their chances of gaining access to personal information they wouldn’t normally have available to them, which provides them with other opportunities for fraudulent activities.

3. The Illegal Impersonation and Inspection Scam

Sadly, scammers are also infamous for illegally impersonating people of authority who the general public would be much more likely to trust with little to no hesitation.

For example, scammers may pose as utility workers, government officials such as police officers, or representatives from reputable companies.

In many cases, they will claim that they need access to your home for inspection, repairs, or other made-up purposes. For example, they might claim that there have been several robberies recently in your community and offer you a “free security inspection” to better protect your home from break-ins.  

Think Home Alone. 

Practically invited inside, they use this ruse in a variety of sinister ways such as stealing valuable items they locate within your home, scoping out the setup of your home for a planned burglary, or gathering personal information from you that they can use to commit financial fraud.

4. The Scummy Salesman/Corrupt Charity Scam

Let’s be honest—Scummy, swindling salesmen are nothing new.

However, it is important to remember that scammers are extremely skilled at lying and manipulating their victims, exploiting crafty tactics that prey on your emotions and have high success rates.

Under the right circumstances and situations, anyone can slip up.

With specific situational or emotional triggers that would cause you to panic, immediately abandoning logic or reason, in combination with a sense of urgency that puts pressure on you to make quick decisions in the moment, anyone can fall prey to a scam in the snap of a finger.

Scammer “salesmen” may try to sell counterfeit or stolen goods, including electronics, jewelry, or home appliances. These items are often of poor quality, don't function as advertised, or will never actually arrive.

Scammers may also pretend to sell magazine subscriptions, claiming they offer special discounts or exclusive deals. Their tendencies are to use high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresent the purpose of the sale, or even sign you up for long-term subscriptions without your consent.

In perhaps one of the most morally unethical and despicable scams, fraudsters may even pretend to represent a charitable organisation, claiming to collect donations for a good cause.

Often providing false information about the cause, they will share emotional stories to manipulate people into giving money. Additionally, they might provide fake identification or documentation to convince you to contribute.

However, as you might have guessed, the donations rarely reach any legitimate charitable organisation. This is why it is so crucial to verify the legitimacy of any charity before donating.

How You Can Protect Yourself from Scams

It’s helpful to be aware of some of the most common door-to-door scams, but how do you know when you are being scammed in everyday life situations?

Most importantly, how can you protect yourself from becoming yet another victim of scams?

Look Out for These Red Flags—Common Signs That You Are Being Scammed

These are some of the common signs and red flags to look for when you suspect that someone is trying to scam you:

  • A high sense of urgency
  • Coming across as aggressive or overly persistent
  • Are emotionally manipulative
  • Trying to scare or threaten you
  • Utilising incentives such as prizes, money, or raffles
  • The offer seeming too good to be true
  • Probing you for personal and private information
  • Sharing intensely sad or grandiose stories
  • Requesting money
  • Unscheduled visits from “companies” or “authoritative figures” they are impersonating
  • Person seemingly trying hard to convince you of their identity/ cause/ situation/product
  • They come across as suspicious
  • Something feels off to you

Safety First—Things You Can Do to Avoid Being Scammed

Beyond just being able to identify scams when you see them, there are also personal safety measures that you can take to further avoid being scammed:

  • Do not engage with strangers
  • Do not open the door to strangers
  • Do not allow strangers to come into your home
  • Educate Yourself on how to identify scams
  • Research and verify the legitimacy of people, charities, companies, or organisations before taking any action
  • Trust your instincts and always have some skepticism with strangers
  • Question sudden, unscheduled visits from “companies” and “authoritative figures”
  • Always protect your personal and financial information
  • Never give out personal or financial information until you verify the legitimacy
  • Report suspicious activity when you see it
  • Never make a rash, on-the-spot decision

Learn How to Protect Yourself from Internet Scams

However, remember that scammers don’t just lurk near doorsteps to stalk their prey—They are also known to be spotted hiding behind screens and fake usernames.

Internet scams are as equally dangerous as in-person scams, so it is important that you are also familiar with signs to help you avoid scams when you are online.

If you would like to learn more on how you can protect yourself, not only from in-person scams, but internet scams, click here.

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