Home improvement scams increase as the weather breaks. In spring and summer, scam artists drive through neighborhoods hoping to find people in their yards. Once spotted, the victim is drawn into a conversation about the work that needs to be done on their home and then offered a "bargain" home repair.
Here are some red flags to watch for to avoid being taken advantage of:
- The repairperson drives an unmarked truck or van with an out-of-state license.
- Only rarely will legitimate home improvement companies solicit door-to-door. They usually distribute fliers or make phone calls since it's more cost effective for them.
- The worker has no business identification, local address or telephone number. Always request identification so that you can call the company for verification.
- You are offered a “special price” if you sign that day. Honest home contractors don’t pressure customers to sign a contract or job order immediately.
- Beware of excuses such as, "We just finished a job around the corner and had extra materials that we could offer you at a discounted price." Professional companies do not operate in that manner.
- The worker asks for upfront costs or fees, or accepts only cash. Reputable contractors do not ask for all the money upfront. A customer pays one third of the bill first, then another third midway through the job, and the rest when the work is completed. Never pay in cash. Using a check keeps a record of the transaction and often provides identification of the person cashing the check.
- No written estimates or contracts are offered. If you have no contract, you have no recourse if the job is faulty or is never completed.
- The worker has no references. Ask for references and check around the neighborhood to see if anyone has contracted with this person to do work on their home.
Some scam artists also like to intimidate their potential victims. After a job is finished, usually with inferior materials and shoddy work, the man or woman will inform the customer that more money is owed. When the customer objects, he or she is told that the materials used were stolen and the police will be brought in if the higher price isn’t paid.
Before hiring someone to complete work on your home or property, compare estimates from licensed, reputable contractors.
If you suspect that the person at your door is a scam artist, contact the Ashland Police Department at 804-365-6140, or 911 if it’s an emergency. Your call could help your neighbors and prevent others from being taken in.