Home Improvement Fraud / Theft
What It Is
When the need arises for improvements or repairs that you can't do for yourself, many people turn to others to do the work. Most of the time the result is a competent and professional job. But there is a faction of unscrupulous people out there that will take your money and either leave the job unfinished or not done at all.
Discount roof repairs, driveway sealing or repairs, electrical work, plumbing repairs, or automotive dent repair are common scams.
How It Happens
Some unscrupulous contractors prey on victims by quoting an extremely low price for jobs and upon completion, demand a higher price. They may show up to do the work after being paid, or they may not, so never pay first. They may use putty to “repair” a dent or do fake repairs on a roof, or use a mix of gas and water to “seal” a driveway and then are gone before it dries and you realize they have done nothing of value.
Another scam we have seen is that one “contractor” distracts the homeowner, often elderly, whether by moving them to the backyard or to another room, while accomplices enter the home and quickly take jewelry and valuables from the master bedroom. Or the contractor may ask to use the restroom and do the burglary himself. Another variation involves an imposter posing as an electric company employee there to do repairs on the equipment servicing your home.
How to Avoid It
- All work to be completed must be in the contract.
- Always fill out checks yourself. Never give a contractor a blank check.
- Call police if you suspect a fraudster is at your home. If you are scared for your safety, dial 911 from your home phone and leave the line open.
- Call the utility company if you feel an "employee" is not who he or she claims to be.
- Check out contractors with the Better Business Bureau and county licensing agencies.
- Don’t let contractors into your home unless you have contacted them through a legitimate ad or service.
- Don't be high-pressured into signing any agreements or contracts.
- Make sure a would-be contractor is not distracting you so someone else can enter your home.
- Never sign a certificate of completion unless all work is performed to your satisfaction.
- Take bids for work from several contractors. Get business cards and license plate numbers.