One night earlier this week we were sitting in our living room, watching "Jeopardy," when we were interrupted by someone knocking on the front door.

A woman said she was selling magazines and hoping to win a trip to Italy. She became annoyed when we didn't buy any. She rudely tried opening our door instead of talking through it, but we made it clear she wasn't welcome.

Later, we noticed our back gate was open because our dog got out of the yard.

Was someone coming to our back door while this magazine salesman was at our front door?

We can't say for sure that this was a scam attempt, but one thing is certain. The warmer weather attracts the scam artists.

We're not talking about the Internet scams or telephone swindlers.

We're talking about those brazen lowlifes who confront you face-to-face with the intention to swindle you, who will lie to you while looking you in the eye.

Last year a Mahoning Township woman had a large amount of money stolen from her home when an person posed as a driveway paver, while another slipped into her house and stole the money.

There were other reports of pairs of people preying especially on the elderly who live alone.

If someone comes to your door and offers to make "needed" roofing or driveway repairs, DO NOT HIRE them. Close the door and notify police. A reputable company will have identification in person and on their vehicles.

Be familiar, if possible, with someone doing work for you. If you hire a contractor, plumber or roofer, check on their reputation. Ask at the borough hall. Check with friends and neighbors. Try not to be alone when the work is being performed, especially if you don't know the parties.

All your life you probably were taught to be polite. Scammers thrive on politeness. Be stern. Be assertive. Close the door.

If you're solicited, immediately call police. Most municipalities have ordinances which require individuals soliciting in communities to have permits.

If approached with a contract and you don't understand it, don't sign it. Ask a relative or friend, or possibly even a lawyer, to review it. Once you sign a contract, you might be held liable for something that wasn't your intention.

All contractors must be licensed in Pennsylvania. That license number is supposed to be on correspondence you have with the contractor, including bills and contracts.

Check with the Better Business Bureau on a firm's reputation.

Keep your doors locked, especially if you live alone or in an isolated area.

The most common scam is to be distracted at your front door while someone enters your home through a rear door and steals your belongings.

Con artists operate in both rural and populated areas.

Never let a salesman into your home. If they ask to use your telephone, refuse. Again, politeness can be bad when dealing with scoundrels.

When someone you don't know comes knocking at your door, don't believe everything they say.

If they tell you they're earning money for college, check with police to make sure they are legitimate solicitors.

Don't be scammed. Use caution and common sense.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com