Guest Column | Spot and avoid home fraud this winter

Be skeptical of products or services that promise drastic savings. Search online for the company or product name with words like “scam” or “complaint.”

Resist high-pressure door-to-door sales calls for heating systems, windows and other home improvement products. Pressure to act fast is a sign of a scam.

Find a contractor who’s licensed and reputable, and remember that the Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel if you sign the contract anywhere other than the contractor’s permanent place of business.

Get any offers to reduce your utility bills in writing before you accept or sign a contract. Consider how long the offer or discount will be valid for. Ask about the length of the contract or commitment, and if it involves early termination fees.

Spot utility scams. Recognize scammers impersonating your utility company and threatening to shut off your service. One way to tell is anyone who tells you to pay with a gift card, cryptocurrency or by wiring money through companies like Western Union or MoneyGram is a scammer.

Check to see if you can get help from the Low Income Home Assistance Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Learn more at ftc.gov/SavingEnergy.

(Gema de las Heras is a consumer education specialist with the Federal Trade Commission.)

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