After natural disasters, scam artists posing as door-to-door repairmen, contractors or handymen often arrive in the affected area promising discounted prices and quick repairs. Some use high pressure sales tactics to get consumers to sign contracts for the needed repairs. Consumers should ask contractors for references and call their previous clients in order to check their reputation. They can also check with the Better Business Bureau for additional information. Consumers should also check with their local officials to find out if tree and debris removal contractors need to be licensed in the area.
A typical scenario involves an uninvited door-to-door solicitation from a contractor claiming to have a “special price” on roofing, siding, windows, asphalt, etc. Of course, the price is only good “right now” and the contractor will need all or most of the price paid “up front.” Some of these phony contractors work alone and others, known as Travelers, move together in roaming groups or clans. Once they get your money they usually disappear having done little or none of the promised work. The work that is done is usually of poor quality.
Tips to Protect Yourself From Home Repair Fraud:
- Do not allow an uninvited contractor into your home to “look around” or make an “inspection.” Write down the driver’s license and vehicle information in case you need to report the contractor to law enforcement.
- Do not make an immediate decision to hire a contractor to do any work on your home. Before you sign a contract for home repairs obtain bids from at least 3 different contractors.
- Get a written estimate and sign a written contract that includes a description of the work to be performed, the price, when the work will be started, the quality and type of all materials to be used, and when the work will be completed. Make sure the contract includes the contractor’s contact information and does not have any blanks left at the time of signing.
- Insist on paying with a credit card or check. Be wary of contractors asking for a cash deposit. Negotiate a reasonable down payment with the full payment to be made only upon satisfactory completion of work.
If you believe you have been victimized by a contractor or wish to report suspicious activity, please file a report here.