Nikki Carter's Blog
Homeowners have become increasingly aware of the dangers that face them and their homes. More Americans than ever lock their doors at night and own home security systems to protect themselves and their homes from intruders.
However, one danger that many homeowners aren’t prepared for is posed by scammers. These scammers are innovative and use tools like the internet and the semblance of authority to their advantage. What’s more, the nature of their scams is always evolving.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common scams affecting homeowners. We’ll talk about how to protect yourself from these scams and recognize them so that you and your home can avoid potential disaster.
There are few things more concerning to a homeowner than the thought of losing their home. Scammers take advantage of these fears by promoting “relief programs” that promise to reduce your monthly payments or otherwise protect you from being foreclosed on.
The scam here is that these companies might not help you at all but will still charge for their services. They’ll often browse public foreclosure notices or post ads online. When they reach out to a homeowner they’ll do so via a letter that seems personal and professional. They could also call your phone or send you an email offer.
By U.S. law, such companies cannot charge you for any services unless they successfully help you gain relief from your lender, and even then you must still accept the offer before the relief company can ever charge you.
Home maintenance and repair
One of the more dangerous scams on our list involves something seemingly innocent--a knock on your door to let you know your roof needs repair. While some startup companies may go door-to-door offering their services, most of the time this should send up a red flag. There are a few potential scams that come in the form of a person in work uniform knocking on your door.
First, a company might be selling real services, but they could be services you don’t need. Make sure you understand facts about your home, such as the last time your roof was repaired. This will help you avoid making a bad deal to replace something that doesn’t need replacing.
Also be sure to never let someone into your home, regardless of their uniform, if you are alone or it’s late at night. Someone may be dressed like a salesperson or utility worker, but they could in reality be doing research on your home and your valuables. Would-be burglars can often spot your valuables, and see how secure your home is before coming back when no one is home.
Protect your identity
The issue of identity theft has been in the public eye with the rise of online communications. However, one of the easiest ways to steal your valuable information could be sitting right in your mailbox or in your garbage can.
Always be sure to shred papers that have personal information on them. And, if you go away on vacation, ask a neighbor or relative to bring in your mail for you. Not only will this help keep your identity safe, but it will make it look like someone is at home by keeping the pile of mail and newspapers outside low.
- Be security conscious. Even if you live in what you consider to be a safe neighborhood, all it takes is one incident to rob you of your sense of security -- not to mention any valuables that might be lying around. While there are a handful of small, close-knit communities out there where folks feel comfortable leaving their doors unlocked, it's still better to exercise a little caution. Unless you can depend on your neighbors to keep a close eye on your house when you're not at home, locking doors and windows before you leave is a smart safety practice.
- Get at least three estimates. Whether you're planning on remodeling your kitchen, repaving your driveway, or having the exterior of your house painted, you can often save thousands of dollars by getting and comparing three written quotes. When you talk to contractors and other service providers, you'll also get a sense of how easy or difficult they are to work with. If they're impatient with your questions or slow to respond to emails and phone messages, then you're probably seeing a preview of what they'd be like on the job.
- Get a dehumidifier for your basement. If your basement is dry and you don't have any drainage issues outside your house, then this suggestion may not apply to you. However, if your basement humidity level is approaching 60%, a dehumidifier may be necessary to help prevent mold growth, indoor air quality problems, and other issues. (Monitoring tip: Inexpensive humidity gauges are available at hardware stores and online.) Preventing mold growth before it takes hold can potentially save you thousands of dollars in mold remediation costs. If your basement is wet, musty smelling, or has visible signs of mold or mildew, consulting with a certified mold assessor or a basement waterproofing company can help you identify the extent of the problem, as well as what to do about it.
- Research dog breeds before choosing a family pet. All dog breeds have different characteristics, personality traits, exercise needs, and training requirements. Unfortunately, some families choose a puppy based on how cute it is, rather than how well it will fit into their lifestyle. Dogs generally need a lot of attention, especially when they're being housebroken and acclimated to daily routines. To help ensure a successful relationship with your new dog, it's important that every member of the family understand the responsibility that comes with pet ownership: It's a labor of love and a long-term commitment.
Safety hazardsSome of the most common safety hazards to your home are completely preventable. Hazards like fire and carbon monoxide are both easily averted by safe practices when it comes to cooking, electronics, and using open flames of any kind. Follow these tips to protect yourself from fire:
- Install fire and CO detectors throughout your home. Set a reminder in your calendar to check the batteries yearly or however long is recommended on the detector.
- Make sure your family knows basic cooking an electronics safety such as how to properly use ovens, microwaves, and power outlets.
- Teach your family the proper use of fire extinguishers and have a fire safety week at your home where you cover the aforementioned topics, as well as how to evacuate the house in case of a fire.
BurglaryAccording to the FBI, break-ins are the number one most common threat to a home. There is a break-in every 15 seconds in America. Follow these tips to prevent break-ins at your home:
- Don't leave spare keys outside your home or on your porch. Similarly, don't leave spare keys on or in your vehicle.
- Make sure your doors and windows lock properly. Burglars will often move past a home if they cannot easily enter through the front or back doors. Installing a deadbolt will add to the integrity of your doors.
- Don't keep valuable items like laptops, televisions, or expensive sound systems in plain sight from the road.
- Change the locks when you move into a new home and keep track of the number of key copies that are made.
- Keep a fireproof, waterproof, heavy safe in your home with important or dangerous items stored inside. This includes jewelry, important documents, and firearms & ammunition.
- Get to know your neighbors and agree to keep an eye on one another's homes, especially when one of you is away. Install motion sensor lights and find out if your neighbor uses them. Similarly, have them pick up your mail when you're away so it doesn't seem obvious that your house is empty.
The Role of the internet and technologyTechnology can be a useful tool in making your home safer or it can be an easy way to advertise that you are vulnerable to a break-in. Follow these tips when it comes to technology-related security:
- Don't post pictures of valuable items on social media
- Don't advertise to your social media "friends" when you are going away. This could be an invitation to break in.
- Installing a security system or even some dummy cameras and alarms can be a great deterrent.
- Use encrypted cloud storage to keep your data safe. That includes copies of birth certificates, social security cards, family photos, wills, and more.