By CRISTIN REECE
Law enforcement and at least one Palestine family are warning community members of a pair of alleged scam artists who may be preying on this area’s elderly.
Palestine resident and business owner Eric Musil said he contacted police after a man and a woman last week approached his wife’s 93-year-old grandmother at her home, offering to wash windows and clean gutters for a small fee.
“It needed to be done and the amount they initially quoted seemed reasonable to her, so she agreed,” Musil said. “They didn’t do much of anything in the way of work and when they decided they were done, they added $400 to the original price. There’s no way they did even close to that amount of work. Unfortunately, (the victim) was confused and felt obligated to pay.”
Musil and his wife — who happened to show up at her grandmother’s house as the pair were leaving — after hearing the entire story, tried to call the couple to rectify the situation. At the same time, they contacted the victim’s local bank to stop payment on the check but were told it had already been cashed.
“We’re talking about 10 minutes from the time they left to the time we called,” Musil said, shaking his head. “They’d left a flyer, so we called to try to get them to return the money — we even offered to let them keep half, even though they certainly didn’t do anything to earn it. The woman said if I gave her my address, she’d send me a money order.”
The family contacted the Palestine Police Department, which is investigating the incident.
“If any one you do not know just happens to show up asking to do work, the department recommends you check them out,” PPD Public Information Officer Lt. James Muniz stated in a release from the department. “Ask for references for past work and do not make a decision on the spot. Also make sure they show you proper identification such as a driver’s license and some type of company insurance or bond information. If you think you are being scammed, please call the police at once.”
Muniz said if a victim was threatened or felt they would be harmed if they did not write the check for the amount demanded, the offenders could be charged with robbery which is a second degree felony.
Anyone with information concerning this or any other crime is asked to call the Palestine Police Department at 903-729-2254 or CRIME STOPPERS at 903-729-8477.
Texas State Attorney General Greg Abbot also is warning of another summer scam — this one from individuals going door-to-door, claiming to be selling security systems or components, or claiming to work for their security system companies conducting tests or making repairs or upgrades.
“Some door-to-door salespersons may be legitimate, but others may use deceptive tactics to make a sale, taking advantage of trusting Texans in the process,” Abbott stated in a press release.
Anyone answering the door to a salesperson claiming to sell security systems, components, or stating that a system needs to be tested, upgraded or replaced should protect themselves by:
• Asking for identification. Door-to-door sellers of alarm systems must be registered with the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Private Security Board and are required to carry and present a DPS issued “pocket” identification registration which will include the salesperson’s photo, company name and address;
• Protecting their personal information. Texans should not provide the door-to-door salesperson with personal information about themselves or family members and should not describe their security system or acknowledge the existence – or nonexistence – of a security system;
• Verifying the sales person. Call a security system provider’s customer service number to verify whether they sent a representative to their home.; and
• Not making a quick decision. Some door-to-door salespeople may be aggressive and claim that Texans “must-act-now” to qualify for “free” equipment or a big discount. Instead, homeowners should check with their security system provider before making any immediate purchases or upgrades or signing any paperwork.
The AG’s office said under Texas law, a door-to-door sales rep is required to advise potential customers, both orally and in writing, of the right to cancel the sale within three business days. The door-to-door seller must also provide a contract or receipt stating the date of the sale, the name and address of the merchant, and a statement of the consumer’s right to cancel the contract, which includes the address where the purchaser can send a cancellation notice. Texans should not sign a contract that contains any blanks or is undated and should always keep a copy of anything they do sign or initial.
Texans who think they are the victim of a scam can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General by calling the Consumer Complaint Hotline at 800-252-8011 or filing a complaint online at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.