Beware of Contractor Scams

Recently, a friend of mine almost had the worst luck of his life. Luckily, he acted quickly. Here’s his story.

There was a knock at the door. Not expecting anyone, I looked and saw a couple of men at the door and a truck in my driveway. They suggested that they could fix the fascia on the house and the drooping gutters. I hadn’t noticed any droop in the gutters before, but the helpful discussion led me to the decision to have some work done. They asked for a check for materials and I gave them one for $500. Seemed a bit high, but it was for materials that I expected to get. As they were leaving, I heard alarm bells and did some quick research. Based on negative reviews I realized this was not the right contractor for me and that he might not listen to my attempts to cancel the impromptu project.

I called my bank and they immediately put a stop payment on my check. Just in time, it would seem because this so-called “contractor” showed up a few minutes later to cash the check (probably went straight to the bank from my house.) That stop check fee was painful, but not nearly as much as the thought of losing hundreds for work that probably didn’t need to be done. I was very embarrassed that I was almost a victim of a potential scammer. I could have been stuck with a larger bill had he actually performed unsatisfactory work that had to be fixed by someone else. If you don’t know what red flags to look for, take a few minutes to read the article I used to refresh my memory, “How Contractors Scam You Without You Ever Knowing.”

While most contractors are honest, hard-working professionals, some are simply out to scam you out of your money. Even if they “seem legit” as many homeowners feel, it is easy to lose thousands handed over “for materials” and get stuck with a job poorly done (or not done at all.) According to the Better Business Bureau, the most common scam by these roving contractors is “I’ll need the money up front.” The contractor will claim a need for materials and equipment just to start your job and will ask for up to 50% of the project price up front. Some are even gutsy enough to ask for payment in full before the job starts. Once you’ve given him your money, he either disappears or starts doing “work” on your project knowing that you won’t fire him because he’s holding a chunk of your money. The BBB suggests “Never hire a contractor on the spot, whether it’s a driveway paver, an emergency repairman who shows up after a major storm, or a landscaper with surplus plantings. Take your time to check contractors out to make sure they have a good reputation and do quality work.”

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