Senior citizens often fall prey to seasonal door-to-door scams, BBB warns


COLUMBUS — The scam pops up every year when the weather turns nice-you get a knock on the door, and on the other side is someone offering to seal your driveway, trim your trees, or repair your roof. Many times, these itinerant workers take your money but don’t do the work. And more times than not, they target senior citizens.

June is Elder Abuse Awareness Month, and BBB is providing tips which explain how scammers take advantage of consumers which will help you, your family and your friends avoid paying for jobs that won’t get done.

One elderly Central Ohio woman was recently approached at her home with the offer of having her driveway sealed. She told BBB, “He told me that because my driveway wasn’t very big and that I was a senior citizen that if I would pay cash, I could get $10 off of the services. I told the man, Todd Thornhill, that I didn’t keep very much cash on me and I could pay only $100 in cash and the other by check which I wrote in the amount of $130 paid to him. They only completed half of my driveway and told me they had to get more seal coat and would be right back. They didn’t return and also stole my gas leaf blower and a rake.”

Here are some of the most common methods scammers use to urge consumers, especially the elderly, into giving up their money, property or personal information.

• Social Consensus: Most of us have a tendency to take comfort in “if everyone is using it, it must be ok” mindset, and scammers know it. Many times they will use phrases like, “We were working at your neighbors,” or “Several houses in the area have used our services.” This makes consumers feel secure because people they trust are using the company, so they’re probably reliable. Unfortunately, the scammers are usually using the same lines on everyone in the neighborhood.

• Reciprocity: Many times we hear consumers say that the person who knocked on their door had already done something for them at no charge or was willing to throw in something for free while completing a bigger job. This tactic is meant to make people feel a “quid pro quo” type of mentality, and frequently people feel that since they got something, they needed to give something. This is a common way for consumers to get roped into projects that they may not even need.

• Scarcity: This is the most commonly used way for scammers to get people to take their bait. Many times you’ll hear, “We are only in your area today,” or “This price is available for one day only.” This high pressure to act quickly often comes at the end of a pitch and makes you think: “If I don’t act now, this offer might not be available later,” which can escalate emotions.

The shared theme of all these tactics is they prey on the emotions of the victim. Scammers are practiced in the art of manipulation and persuasion, so making yourself and family members aware of the red flags is an easy yet important way to avoid falling for these schemes. Take the time to evaluate the offer – and the emotions the pitch is designed to illicit.

Be on the lookout for these red flags:

• Selling door-to-door

• Claims of leftover asphalt from another job

• Pushing you to make a quick decision

• No written contract

• Cash-only sales

• Demands payment up front

• Deals that seem too good to be true

• The contractor is from out of state or in an unmarked truck

Checking with BBB for a BBB Business Review is an easy and effective way for consumers to avoid becoming victims. Go to bbb.org for Business Reviews on companies in Ohio and across the country, and visit bbbhomehelp.com for tips and resources for home improvements.

For more information you can trust visit us at bbb.org/centralohio or on Facebook and Twitter. BBB continues to seek help form the public on Joshua Nicholas dba NG Crown Roofing and Paving. If you have any information about this company, please email llanigan@centralohio.bbb.org or call our offices at 614-486-6531BBB continues to seek help form the public on Joshua Nicholas dba NG Crown Roofing and Paving. If you have any information about this company, please email llanigan@centralohio.bbb.org or call our offices at 614-486-6531