ESPECIALLY FOR SENIORS: Be careful out there

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The phone lines (and email) have been busy this summer with all sorts of people trying to straighten out my credit cards, even though I don’t have any, send me on a vacation, and begging me to help some child somewhere who absolutely will not see another day unless I open my wallet. Here are some reminders for those of you who may need reminders:

Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls. To add your number to the Registry you can call 888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to register.

Your registration will not expire. Telephone numbers placed on the National Do Not Call Registry will remain on it permanently due to the Do-Not-Call Improvement Act of 2007, which became law in February 2008. Read more about it at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/04/dncfyi.shtm.

Summer also is a prime time for door to door salespeople. Whether it’s paving your driveway, repairing a roof or a special deal on beef, magazines or cosmetics, you should be wary. The Maine Attorney General’s Office reminds us all that Maine has statutes specifically intended to regulate door-to-door sales and to protect consumers from high pressure tactics. In many cases, door-to-sales require a state license and a three day waiting period.

A consumer should know that door-to-door sellers are required to have a permanent address or to be licensed with the state.

If you do agree to do business with this person, they must give you a detailed contract and they cannot commence work for three days, during which the consumer may cancel. Demand for payment up front should be a red flag that something is not right.

The Consumer Solicitation Sales Act requires that a door-to-door seller of merchandise, including home repair services, paving or installing burglar alarms, must use a specific written contract and must wait three days before beginning the job. A homeowner has this period of time to review the contract and to cancel it in writing if they change their mind for any reason. If a deposit was provided, the seller has to return it within 15 days.

The Transient Sales Act applies to those sellers who travel into and throughout the State selling such services and goods such as driveway paving or magazine subscriptions and who then seem to “disappear” by the time problems develop. This Act requires transient sellers of merchandise or services to be licensed by the State if they do not have a permanent place of business in Maine (either a 12-month lease or ownership of the business building).

A consumer should ask for the address of the seller’s Maine “permanent place of business.”

The Door-To-Door Seller of Home Repair Services Act requires a door-to-door seller of home repair services to be licensed by the state and to carry a state-issued license when soliciting in a municipality in which the seller does not have a permanent place of business (a 12-month lease or ownership). For example, if you find a driveway paver who is going door-to-door, ask: Do you have a permanent place of business in this community? If not, can you show me your state license?

To find out if a seller is licensed under the Transient Sales Act or the Door-to-Door Seller of Home Repair Services Act, call the Licensing Division at the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (624-8603) to confirm that the seller is registered. Or search Maine’s online list of licensees at: www.maine.gov/pfr/professionallicensing/license_search.htm.

Any complaints regarding door-to-door sales should first be reported to your local police department. Make sure to obtain the seller’s name and address and the identification of employees and vehicles. Also, photos of the individuals are helpful, in case the sellers are using different names.

If you have questions about these or other consumer matters, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at 800-436-2131.

Kay Soldier welcomes reader ideas for column topics of interest to seniors. She can be reached by email at [email protected], or write to 114 Tandberg Trail, Windham, ME 04062.

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