Home Repair Scams

"Every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes every day; wisdom consists of not exceeding the limit." (P.T. Barnum)
You have probably heard the following words many times in your life: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! However, have you ever really thought about them? More importantly, would you remember them if you were approached by someone who was offering you a bargain that seemed too good to pass up? We hope so.
If you plan on hiring someone to do home repair or improvement, you owe it to yourself (and your savings account) to make certain that a reputable person, using reputable materials, does the job at a fair price. This includes furnace repair, drywall, roofing, you name it.

For many reasons, senior citizens more often become victims of all types of scams, including those relating to home improvement. Anyone who knows a senior citizen who is planning on having any type of home repair work performed is encouraged to assist and offer guidance.

Here's a classic scam. The driveway sealing scam.

In this scam, a homeowner is approached at the home and told that a nearby driveway job was just completed and that because there is some material remaining, the homeowner has an opportunity to take advantage of it and save some money, but only if the job is done immediately. However, once the job is done the homeowner might be told that it cost more than originally stated. The material used might also be substandard and will wash off with the next rain.

The scenario above is just one example of how it could work. The varying types of scams and "come-ons" are endless. Homeowners should also be aware that some disreputable contractors might use a variety of deceptive sales tactics, such as a "bait and switch." Perhaps the contractor will tell the homeowner how dangerous it will be if the repairs are not done. The contractor might threaten to call the police if the homeowner questions an unexpectedly high bill. Not knowing how to handle it, the homeowner reluctantly pays.

Other Repair Scams

Some home repair scams include an offer to the homeowners, particularly seniors, to let the repair business arrange for financing of the repair work they propose to do. In effect, they are using the equity of the home for high interest loans and the repayment plan may cover only the interest so the principal due remains high and uses the equity available.
Even if you call someone yourself, you should still be comfortable with the situation before you give the go ahead for the work. Please don't think for a minute that it can't or won't happen to you. Maybe it never will, but it CAN.

Ruse Burglaries

Sometimes, a ruse burglary is the real purpose of an unsolicited visit. A ruse burglary is when the offender may pose as a public utility employee, a roofer, or other service provider and claim they need access to the victim's residence or back yard to inspect their water, gas or cable components, recent work done, work that needs to be done, etc. The offender will then direct the victim to an area of the residence away from where valuables may be stored, or to come outside of their residence to look at something in their yard while an accomplice enters the home.

What You Can Do

Keep these things in mind to avoid being ripped off:
  • Be leery of someone who "happens to be in the area" or claims to have material remaining from another job.
  • Be leery of someone who wants you to pay in cash.
  • Don't be pressured into a decision. If you hear a "now or never" type line, refuse.
  • Ask for references and call them. Ask your friends or relatives for references too.
  • Get at least 3 written estimates. Ask first if there is a charge for the estimate.
  • Get a written contract before the work is done. Make sure that there is a guarantee on the work.
  • Pay with a check so that you can stop payment if you need to.
  • Don't be afraid or embarrassed to call the police if you are in a situation that makes you uncomfortable
  • Do not allow strangers to come into your home or to distract you away from your unlocked front door.
Remember ... if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Want to read more about home repair frauds? Try this...

Consumer Information for Home Improvement