That time of year — summertime scams

Summer is the time for home repair or remodeling. It’s also a time when con artists prey on homeowners, especially elderly homeowners. If you want work done on your home, you should be looking for the contractor; the contractor shouldn’t be looking for you.
June 22, 2014

Anyone who knocks on your door offering to do work for you probably isn’t worth hiring. Add that to the fact that many of these so-called contractors ask for money up front, and you’ve got a scam that’s just ripe for the picking.

You’ll pay the contractor, and they may never show up to do the work.

Before you pay anyone who uses this type of approach, and especially before you allow any unknown individual into your home, the Better Business Bureau suggests you do the following:

Obtain the name and address of the company the handyman allegedly represents. If the person does not represent a known business and the circumstances suggest an itinerant contractor or sales representative, ask for references and contact each one.

Get all details of the offer in writing and carefully review it. Make sure you understand everything in the contract. Any verbal promises should be included in the contract.

Make sure the salesperson has provided you with the proper “notice of cancellation” form as required under the FTC’s “Three Day Cooling-Off Rule” for contracts signed in the home.

Verify that the contractor is properly licensed, bonded, and insured.

Determine how long the company has been in business and call your Better Business Bureau to determine the firm’s customer experience record.

If you’ve checked references and the company’s reputation, and you decide to hire the company, make the check payable to the company and not to the salesperson or any other individual’s name. Do not pay in cash.

Remember, any legitimate company that wants your business will be more than willing to allow you the time to “check them out.” Don’t fall prey to high-pressure sales tactics such as “this is the only chance you have” or “by tomorrow the extra materials will be gone.” If you have an expensive repair, be especially cautious of these offers. Obtain bids from several companies. Don’t always go for the lowest bid — in many cases, you will get exactly what you pay for.

We have a couple of brothers who when they need money they drive around and knock on your door telling you that you have trees ready to fall and need to be removed. The first time was for real (ash bore), the second time was almost real (storm damage) but the third time was just annoying and I told them to go away and don’t come back.

Another summer sighting is a door-to-door solicitor working “for a good cause”. When you start buying things from any old door-to-door solicitor (unless, of course, we’re talking about valid organizations like the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts), you never know where your money is really going and it very well might just be going to line the pockets of the person walking door to door.

If someone comes knocking at your door and you’re concerned, immediately dial 911 and report them to the police. Being safe is your first goal and you should never place yourself in jeopardy. If you want to check out either a contractor or a charity, Google them, check Angie’s list or call the Better Business Bureau. So be a wise consumer and keep an eye out for the consumer scams this summer. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.