Door to door scammer?
November 26, 2012 5:04 PM   Subscribe

I think there's a scammer going door-to-door in my apartment building -- what do I do?

I live in an apartment building that has a separate front door key, but of course people follow people in, so it's not terribly hard to get in.

I had someone knock on my door (she's going door-to-door in the building) and ask for a copy of my electric bill to make sure I'm getting the 15% discount I'm supposed to be getting. Now, I had already thrown mine out so she told me she'd come back at another time.

I didn't think until after she left that it was odd, and when I searched I found these Liberty Power scams in my area (Philly) where they pretty much do what I described. But... maybe I get my power through an intermediary? She seemed to be holding a bunch of bills that had "Liberty" on them -- but yeah, it doesn't add up. So, I called my landlord but they're closed (management company). I don't know if she's still in the building -- what do I do? Call the cops? Leave the landlord a message? Post on our apartment notice board? I'm not at risk, but I'm concerned that all of my neighbors are.
posted by DoubleLune to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a scam, but maybe try calling Liberty Power and asking if this is procedure for them. I'd be surprised if it was, but you never know.
posted by lharmon at 5:06 PM on November 26, 2012

You have an intruder in your building. You call the police.

(You also have no idea if the scam is all the intruder is doing. She could be casing units in your building for later theft.)
posted by juniperesque at 5:11 PM on November 26, 2012 [14 favorites]

Call the police.
posted by spinifex23 at 5:11 PM on November 26, 2012

Confront! Go find her, let her know you know it's a scam, and run her off. (If it's not a scam she'll just think you're crazy and not bug you again.) Don't be mean or threatening, but be firm and let her know you're not okay with what she's doing. If she blows you off, call the cops - on your cell phone, standing right there in front of her.

*Of course if you feel she's at all dangerous don't do this, but I'd bet she's not, and is scared enough of getting busted that she'd just scram with little provocation.
posted by attercoppe at 5:12 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, those people come around all the time. They're essentially fakes. Best practice generally is to say "Please leave the building" and then, you know, ignore them, or call the police, as you wish. (Previously)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:12 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't know how it works in your area, but this sounds more like a super-sleazy sales technique than an outright scam. She's trying to get you to switch power providers (pretending to be from your current company, it seems).

I doubt that the police would care so long as no one is being threatened. If you've let your landlord know, they can inform the other tenants -- not sure that there's much more you can do.
posted by The Notorious B.F.G. at 5:15 PM on November 26, 2012

Funny, I had them come today, too. (NYC) Three women, with tags that said something like Energy Family. The tone was scammy too; they referenced other neighbors as though for credibility -- "Mr. Williams, the doctor, who lives upstairs..."
posted by xo at 5:17 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had people like this in our neighborhood once. The company was known for having conversations with people, getting their hands on an old bill, and then next month people would find that their gas was now more expensive because this company was acting as an intermediary provider. People would complain and say they'd never agreed to it. The company would swear they'd be given verbal permission during the conversation.

I looked into it with the Better Business Bureau and they said they'd received complaints but couldn't do anything. When they came to our door, we angrily told them to leave and that we didn't want any changes in our gas service. They reacted like ultra-cool psychopaths: "Don't get upset. We're not here to threaten you. Why don't you let us in and we'll talk..." Seriously!

So, I'd just let them know I was calling the cops to get them to leave, and don't exchange any more words with them.
posted by Beardman at 5:24 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ok well I called the cops and he elected to send an officer. I don't think they were trying to get people to change -- literally just collecting electric bills. It's weird that they'd come around at 8pm, and not during business hours, if it was legit.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:25 PM on November 26, 2012

("be given verbal permission" = "been given verbal permission")
posted by Beardman at 5:25 PM on November 26, 2012

This happened a couple of times in my old (much smaller than the current one) building; I double-checked with ConEd and they said they had no one making these kinds of housecalls. Didn't bother calling the cops but I did warn my elderly neighbors that it was a common scam.
posted by elizardbits at 5:30 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Who let you in?" usually puts the shoe on the other foot with people who manage to get into my building.
posted by rhizome at 6:03 PM on November 26, 2012 [17 favorites]

posted by Wordwoman at 6:16 PM on November 26, 2012

Talk to all of your neighbors, let them know you think it's a scam, and have them be on the lookout for extra charges on their next bill. I know I would want one of my neighbors to inform me if something like this was going on in my building.
posted by markblasco at 8:24 PM on November 26, 2012

Having done (perfectly legal) canvassing, the way to get them to leave the building as soon as possible is something like "I saw you come in, the police are on their way. They know what you look like. You are trespassing. We have security cameras." and if they say anything else just repeat "the police are on their way, you are trespassing" over and over again.

This should be yelled from behind a securely closed door. DO NOT say this with an open door, even with a chain lock. Do not open your door. Do not argue with them or answer their questions. Just repeat over and over "the police are on their way, you are trespassing".

They will leave, or if they're brave and your building is very large, they'll go to another floor/wing. If you have a small building with one entrance/exit, though, they will probably leave.

On the other hand, if you want the police to catch them, you probably want to call the police without alerting them that you're doing so.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:46 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, honestly, having canvassed, there's no clever retort or question that will make them think twice if they're experienced at all. It took about a week before I had a perfectly calm and collected answer to "who let you in" as well as "you're not supposed to be here" and "who do you think you are"...there's no reason to get into a conversation with people who do this dozens of times a day. You won't win. At most they'll roll their eyes and go to a different floor so that they don't have to worry about you watching them. Either scare them off properly or lay low and call the cops.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:50 PM on November 26, 2012

To be sure, I live in a small building.
posted by rhizome at 10:43 PM on November 26, 2012

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