Home Contractor Scams a Growing Concern

Home contractor scams are often on the rise in the spring, and home owners should take steps to make sure they aren’t duped.

The scams often target the elderly, with scammers offering to complete yard or household work for money up-front and then never completing the work after the payment is collected. Or, contractors may complete the work but then attach a higher price than was originally agreed upon.

Several reports of home contractor scams across the country have surfaced in recent weeks. For example, a 77-year-old man in the Philadelphia area was reportedly scammed into paying for a roof repair, which he later discovered was completed using a useless, tar-like substance. In another case, an 83-year-old woman paid a contractor $4,300 and then never saw him again.

“In many cases, we see a person posing as a licensed or reputable contractor, and all checks out until the first payment is made to begin the job, and then the subject disappears,” says Tom Burnett, a spokesman for Wymoo International, a detective agency based in Jacksonville, Fla. “We see fake business cards and web sites being used, and criminals can assume the identity of a real contractor, register a company or use an alias. The goal is always the first payment.”

Burnett recommends contacting the Better Business Bureau to check for any complaints against the company or contractor, asking for references and then actually contacting those references, and asking for the contractor’s license number to verify with your state’s Department of Professional Regulation or the contractor’s state license board.

“If someone offers to do a really quick job on your house for a really low price, and it sounds too sound to be true, it probably is,” says Amy Matthews, a spokesperson for Home Advisor, an online site that matches home owners with licensed home contractors.

Source: “How to Spot a Home-Contractor Scam,” U.S. News & World Reports (April 24, 2013)

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