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2009 News Releases

May 1, 2009
For More Information Contact:
Officer Katie Flood, Public Information Officer, 441.7226

Spring Reminders to Avoid Scam Artists

Thomas Harms, arrested last year for swindling a Lincoln man of $21,000 for gutter guards and tree trimming, was recently sentenced to 40-60 months for the crime. Even though he is incarcerated, there are others just like him, ready to prey upon trusting adults. Now that spring is here, scam artists may begin peddling door-to-door. These scam artists target older people that own their own homes. They try and sell things like home repair, driveway repair, gutter cleaning and tree trimming. The Lincoln Police Department wants to take a moment to provide tips to prevent citizens from being victimized.

Scam tactics

With tree trimming, the scammer might break a tree branch off of a tree in someone's yard and then bring the tree branch to the door to convince the resident they need their branches trimmed immediately.

They will also advise you that you need one small repair, then, once the job has started, they will find other costly, urgent problems that also need attention. A $200 repair bill may turn into several thousands.

Scammers will often use cheap or inappropriate materials if they do any work at all.

Tips to avoid door-to-door scammers

1) Do not do business with door to door sales people unless you can verify that they have a local office. There are legitimate businesses that don't have an office, but you need to have reasonable proof of the validity of the person at the door.

2) Contractors should always be able to prove that they have a contractor's license. If someone cannot provide a license, don't do business with them.

3) Get references that are at least several months old and call them. If someone has a bad record, references are hard for them to come up with. Be sure that you call the references on your phone and make the phone calls in your own time. You want to be sure that you are contacting real people, not partners of the scammer.

4) Don't do business right on the spot. If someone tells you that you have a problem with your property that needs to be fixed, get a second opinion from several other contractors. There is nothing so urgent about your property that it must be handled right now. Anyone that tells you otherwise is probably attempting to scam you into a project that you don't need.

5) Don't be pressured to sign right now or lose the "fantastic deal". This is a common tactic of scammers to stop you from checking them out, looking for a better price, or giving you time to reconsider your decision.

6) Never pay for services in cash. Cash can be spent immediately and is not traceable. Checks must generally be deposited. Banks also have consumer fraud measures and can often track someone who has committed a fraud.

7) If you don't feel comfortable, walk away. It's just that simple. Trust your initial reactions and if the person isn't credible, if their story doesn't seem right, if the deal is too good, if they are high pressured, if they won't listen, if they tell you something is wrong but don't want other opinions on it, just don't do business with them for any reason.

8) Just because the person seems nice and honest, doesn't mean they are. Scammers aren't very successful if they look and sound like liars. Scammers are very good at tricking people.

9) Before you sign a contract, give it at least a day to think it over. Call friends and relatives and pass the idea by them. Talk with neighbors to see if they have had similar work completed. Doing so doesn't mean you aren't intelligent. It means that you are cautious and a savvy shopper.

10) Call the Better Business Bureau (436-2345) to ask if there have been any complaints of this type or against this company.

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