Door‐to‐door scams continue to pose a threat to Ontario consumers and businesses. The individuals may use high pressure tactics and can be aggressive. Consumers may find themselves in a situation where they purchase a product or sign up for a service they neither need nor want.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has received an increased number of complaints from homeowners across the province who have been solicited by individuals attending their residences to sell certain household appliances, contracts and/or services.
How does the fraud operate?
Fraudsters approach individuals in person at the door to their home and use compelling tactics to persuade the homeowner or occupant that a new appliance, contract or service is required.
Call from individuals claiming to be lawyers
Soon after the purchase or installation of the household appliances, contracts and/or services, the victims are contacted by someone claiming to be from a law firm offering a solution to exit the previously signed contracts, remove possible liens and consolidate the incurred debts. Victims are told they may be eligible to receive an award for a significant amount of money if they sign off on exiting the contract.
Conditions of the award
As a condition of the award, the victims are contacted by a home renovation company and ultimately are persuaded to sign a contract, which they are led to believe is required to comply with energy efficiency obligations, related to the award.
The fraudsters then use the signed documents to obtain a mortgage or secondary mortgage on the victim’s home. The funds are then deposited into the victim’s bank account, leading the victims’ to believe they have received the award, which is actually funds from the home equity mortgage taken out on their home. As a condition of the award, victims are instructed to pay the renovation company the proceeds of the award to comply with the terms of the judgement.
2020 and 2021 Canadian Anti‐Fraud Centre statistics
In 2020, the Canadian Anti‐Fraud Centre (CAFC) received 1,641 complaints related to service scams affecting 863 Ontario residents, for a loss of $2,878,898. In 2021, the CAFC received 127 reports from Ontario victims, with a reported loss of $695,454. Door‐to‐door scams reported to the CAFC include solicitations or a service scam involving the sale or maintenance of an appliance.
Understand your rights!
On March 1, 2018, Ontario banned unsolicited, door‐to‐door sales of certain household appliances to better protect consumers from aggressive and misleading contracting at home. The new rules apply to air cleaners, air conditioners, air purifiers, duct cleaning services, furnaces, water filters, water heaters, water purifiers, water softeners, water treatment devices as well as bundles of these goods and services.
On January 1, 2017, Ontario banned energy retailers from signing up customers for an energy contract while at their homes to give consumers the ability to make choices about their energy supply at their own pace and with better information.
Know your rights under the Consumer Protection Act, at https://www.ontario.ca/page/
How can people of Ontario protect themselves?
- Ask for photo ID, get the name of the person and the name of the company or charity they represent;
- Be sure to get it in writing, ask for literature and don’t feel pressured to make a decision on the spot;
- Never share any personal information or copies of any bills or financial statements;
- Don’t let anyone enter your home unless you invited them and/or you have taken steps to verify who they are and know your rights under the Trespass to Property Act;
- Research before you sign anything, agree to anything or invest. Don’t sign anything and always read the fine print;
- An energy retailer cannot sign you up for an energy contract while they are at your home. For more information about the rules that energy retailers have to follow, visit: https://www.oeb.ca/knockknock; and
- For other contracts signed within the home, you have a cooling off period. For example, consumers in Ontario have the right to cancel a contract for any reason within a 10-day cooling off period. For water heater contracts, there is a 20-day cooling off period.
If you believe you have become a victim of fraud, contact your local police service and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 (toll-free) or report online at www.antifraudcentre.ca. You can also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or report the incident online at www.ontariocrimestoppers.ca.