A sinister scam could leave you with poor renovations, a lien or even a new mortgage on your home

Published February 13, 2023 at 3:56 pm

The Halton Regional Police Service has announced a new campaign to raise awareness and combat an increase in Emergency or Grandparent Scams being seen across the region. PEXELS PHOTO

When you answer the door to a salesperson, you don’t expect to end up with bad renovations, a lien on your house or an unwanted mortgage–but some people have dealt with just that. 

Today (Feb. 13), Ontario’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) put out a warning to residents to beware of a “multi-layered door-to-door sales scam” that could seriously compromise a person’s living space and finances. 

The scam, which could disproportionately target older or more vulnerable people who are not aware that door-to-door sales are no longer permitted, can involve aggressive fraudsters. 

“Despite rules banning door-to-door sales, criminals have not stopped,” the SFO’s release reads.  

“Those involved in these frauds are persuasive and persistent. They continue to visit the homes of vulnerable individuals and endear themselves, giving the impression they are a friendly helper.”

As for how the scam works, the SFO says culprits approach people at home (or call them) and tell them that they are obligated to obtain a new appliance, contract or service, including air cleaners, air conditioners, air purifiers, duct cleaning, furnaces, water filters, water heaters, water treatment devices or even bundles of these goods and services.

After the service has been completed or the device installed, a few things can happen. 

According to the SFO, the victim might be contacted by someone purporting to be from a law firm offering assistance to exit previously signed contracts, remove possible liens and consolidate incurred debts. Victims are told they may be eligible to receive a grant for a significant amount of money if they agree to exit the contract.

If a grant was offered, the victim is contacted by a home renovation company and asked to sign a contract and speak with a finance company on the phone. The SFO says this is the process to have a mortgage approved on their home. 

“The funds are then deposited into the victim’s bank account, leading the victim to believe they have received the grant, but it is actually funds from the home equity mortgage taken out on their home,” the SFO says. 

“The victim is told not to touch the money, as it must go toward renovations, as well as to the payments they were making for installed equipment.” 

The SFO says anyone offering free renovations, including flooring, painting, smart thermostats, vanities, sinks, toilets, showers, kitchen cabinets and insulation, should be viewed with suspicion. 

When these renovations are done, they are often poorly done or left incomplete.

The SFO says residents should be vigilant and heed some tips, including not answering the door to strangers, not inviting unsolicited visitors inside and hanging up on people who call to offer a service they did not request. The SFO also advises people never to share personal information or copies of bills or financial statements, make decisions on the spot or sign blank documents. 

Residents are advised to take the time to understand any contracts they may sign and to understand that no home renovations will ever be free or complimentary. 

The SFO also recommends that people check in on their vulnerable loved ones and perhaps consider talking to that person’s bank to ensure they’re on the lookout for anything suspicious. 

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“Ask yourself: why has this person offered to help and how do they know your situation?” the release reads, adding that people should regularly check their credit history online, look up their property on the Land Registry Ontario website and install security or doorbell cameras. 

If you believe you or someone you know has been victimized, contact your local police service and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. 

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