August 26, 1999
Protect yourself and your home from
WASHINGTON, D.C. (SafetyAlerts) - You are at home when you hear a knock on your
door. When you answer your door, there is a man who claims to be "Bill Smith"
from ABC Construction. Smith says he is in your neighborhood doing some roofing work and
he noticed that you need a new roof. He proceeds to offer you substantial savings if you
sign a contract now.
What should you do? Kindly say
"no thank you" and close the door. Then, do some research to find out if you do,
in fact, need a new roof and research several contractors.
Home repair fraud has become a
pervasive problem across the United States. Con artists and vagabond thieves have now
entered this industry to rip you off. Home repair fraud can start with a brochure offering
a free home inspection and a follow-up offer to do necessary work for an unusually low
price. Home repair fraud can also start with an unexpected visit from someone purporting
to do work on your neighbor's house or in your neighborhood. Often, these offers require
you to pay money in advance and the firm never delivers the service or performs
State Attorneys General have
lowered the boom on many fraudulent home repair operations. Some of the most recent scams
have been directed towards seniors.
New York Attorney General Dennis
Vacco indicted a home improvement contractor. Allegedly, the contractor coaxed an
elderly woman out of $13,000 for work that was never done.
In another situation, a 74
year-old woman was defrauded by a contractor in Idaho. The woman paid McFarland all of her
savings for labor and materials to repair her home. During the construction, the woman and
her family became concerned with the poor quality of the work. Shortly thereafter, the
contractor walked off the job, took all the building materials to his supplier for a cash
refund, and kept the money. Attorney General Lance charged the contractor with grand theft
to which he pled guilty.
In Ohio, Attorney General Betty
Montgomery recently filed suit against 17 home improvement contractors for performing
inadequate or incomplete work. The suits allege that Ohio consumers paid hundreds or
thousands of dollars for improvements that were never finished, for work that was done so
poorly that other contractors had to finish it, or for projects that were never started.
To avoid falling victim to home-repair scams, keep
the following tips in mind:
- Be wary of builders or contractors who go
door-to-door selling their services, especially those who offer reduced prices because
they've just completed work nearby.
- Deal only with licensed and insured contractors.
- Don't let anyone rush you into signing a contract.
Always get several estimates for every repair job and compare prices and terms. Ask for
explanations of price variations.
- Ask the company for references, and check them out.
Inspect the work the contractor performed for the references. Check with the Better
Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been lodged against the contractor.
- Beware of contractors who ask you to pay for the
entire job upfront. When making a down payment, never pay more than one-third of the total
- If you have been the victim of home repair fraud,
contact your State Attorney General.
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