Not too many years ago it was common for people to knock on your door. Encyclopedia salespeople, the Avon ladies, charities, odd jobbers, the religious – they would all come and hope to sell something or other. It is the purest example of cold calling. You didn’t ask for it, but someone was selling it, and if you had five spare minutes they could explain how and why, whatever they were selling, would make your life better.

Well, the internet has killed off the encyclopedia, and the Avon lady, and people are generally wary of strangers who come a knocking. Times change and things that were once accepted as an occasional nuisance aren’t really accepted at all any more.

“Cold calling in person is fine but consumers need to let their suspicions come to the surface, and do a bit of research before engaging anyone.”

I read a recent story online that made me remember all of the various types of visitors we used to get. This story concerned scammers that were door knocking and ended up ripping off an unwary homeowner who took them at face value. It fully affirmed two things to me. Cold calling in person is fine but consumers need to let their suspicions come to the surface, and do a bit of research before engaging anyone. It also made it clear to me that tradespeople or businesses cold calling need to offer irrefutable proof that they are legitimate.

Nobody likes scammers. Over the years most of us are used to all of the various frauds – whether by phone, email, through social media, or in person. Scammers have become more sophisticated and operate on success levels that are less than one percent, yet it still surprises me how many people hand over their hard earned dollars to fraudsters without asking the right questions, asking other people advice, or going online to do a bit of research. It seems too easy to me that you would ask for a trading or company name, spend five minutes on Google – see if they are legitimate, or if not, thank them for their time and send them on their way, asking them never to return.

“That was any doubts should have come into very sharp focus.”

These roofing scammers arrived at the 82 year old woman’s house and said they had noticed from the street that her house had a leak in it. Unfortunately for her, she believed she had an existing leak and they would be able to sort that out. Not only did these three gentlemen say they could repair the roof  – they could install two dehumidifiers. All they needed was a $9000 deposit and they would return the bulk of that to her when they had completed the job. That was any doubts should have come into very sharp focus.

She duly paid the money and they cut a hole in her roof. Her next door neighbour had noticed them the day before and had come over to ask questions. He said that they appeared confident but he was suspicious. When they began work the next day he returned and asked them for identification and business cards. They said they would grab them from their car, but they fled. The neighbour and the woman subsequently contacted the police, and it transpired that these scammers had been working the neighbourhood in the previous months with little return.

“Scammers are blessed with a name that doesn’t do them justice. They are nothing more than thieves using deception to steal people’s money.”

The neighbour said that the 82 year old woman was trusting and would have taken the men at face value. And that’s the terribly sad thing. Firstly that anybody would swindle an elderly woman, and secondly that they exploited her faith in humanity.

Scammers are blessed with a name that doesn’t do them justice. They are nothing more than thieves using deception to steal people’s money. Our world has changed – for the better and for the worse. There is something in some people’s natures, whereby they have no qualms stealing people’s money using lies and fraud.

“It requires a healthy dose of skepticism and taking a few minutes to ascertain that they are on the level, or not.”

Vigilance is key to prevent them succeeding. It requires a healthy dose of skepticism, and taking a few minutes to ascertain that they are on the level, or not. This sad tale reminded me that the world of door knockers that I grew up with is no longer the same. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but nobody wants to see common thieves exploiting the inherent goodness in other people.