Scam season is upon us in southern Wisconsin

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Frank Schultz
June 3, 2015

JANESVILLE—Strangers at the door? They could be looking to get into your house and steal things.

Or, they could be asking to sell you something or to fix your roof or driveway, and they want a down payment. Then they disappear forever.

They could be legitimate.

Door-to-door scams seem to pop up each year as summer approaches, said Sgt. Brian Donohoue of the Janesville Police Department.

“We've had no complaints, yet, from the door-to-doors, but they're probably going to start shortly after school lets out,” Donohoue predicted.

Donohoue said he knows of no connection between door-to-door scammers and the end of the school year.

“I think it's just the nicer weather,” he said.

Donohoue advises residents to be careful when someone contacts them offering home repairs that were not requested.

Municipalities often regulate door-to-door commerce. The city of Janesville requires a permit, although nonprofit organizations are exempt.

Janesville residents should ask to see the permit, which is green and will have a photo and the person's name on it, along with other information.

The Janesville ordinance prohibits:

-- Calling at any dwelling between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. without an appointment.

-- Knocking on a rear door at anytime.

-- Staying on the premises after being asked to leave.

-- Trying to make contact at any dwelling that displays a sign saying, “No Peddlers,” “No “Solicitors” or similar language.

Last summer, residents in Janesville and Milwaukee complained of people trying to sell security systems door-to-door. The sales agents claimed the consumers' provider was going out of business or that they needed to provide a required equipment upgrade, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

The department advised that if this happens, residents should call the company to confirm that it had sent an agent.

“In some cases, the sales agents use high-pressure or deceptive sales pitches to get potential customers to buy expensive systems they don't need,” the department said in a news release.

The department offers these tips:

-- It's easier and safer to say “no” to someone standing on your doorstep than it is to try to get someone to leave once they're inside.

-- Ask to see the municipal peddler permit and a photo ID.

-- Beware of high-pressure pitches and scare tactics, particularly if they mention limited-time offers or say you need to act right away.

-- Wisconsin law requires door-to-door sales agents to state name, the company they represent and the goods or services that they are looking to sell before they start their sales pitch.

-- Report suspicious activity to the police. Provide a vehicle make, model and license plate number if you can.

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