Home Repair Fraud

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Each year the Attorney General's Office receives hundreds of calls on its Consumer Protection Hotline about home repair and improvement. 

Consumers complain about workers who accept money for repair jobs they never finish or who fail to honor warranties on home improvement projects. 

A common complaint concerns a deceptive asphalt scheme. In this scam, workers offer to use leftover asphalt from one job to repave your driveway. More often than not, the workers either start the job and then say it will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars more to complete it, or they will just lay black paint instead of asphalt on the driveway and leave town with your money. Another common complaint concerns work on foundations and attics, which you are unable to see. Many times, recommended repair work is worthless, unnecessary and vastly overpriced.

Phony workers

Phony workers like these are a special breed of con artists called "gypsies." Unfortunately seniors are often their prime targets. The reason is simple: Half of all seniors own their own homes, and most of them live in older homes. 

Sometimes these homes do need repair work, and crafty con artists look for this situation. They usually ask for a large down payment before they begin the work, and there even have been reported cases where the repairman goes to the bank with the consumer to withdraw the money. 

Sometimes con artists use the obituaries or city directory to find seniors living alone. 

The con artists claim to be city building or health inspectors who are there to check the furnace. Once in the basement they either cause damage or claim a health or safety threat exists. Then they demand your money, either for immediate repairs or reassembly. 

Phony inspectors

Be wary of anyone who offers to inspect your home for free. They may be looking for defects ranging from a leaky roof to termite or foundation damage. If they tell you damage exists, always get a second opinion before you sign a contract or agree to have any repair work done. 

Other con artists simply use repair come-ons to get into your home. These people usually work in groups of two or three. For example, one will distract you with a bogus furnace inspection while the others search and burglarize your home. Once they have your money and valuables they leave.

Tips to avoid scams:

  • Always check workers' credentials. 
  •  Never let anyone into your home without first asking for identification. 
  •  Representatives of utilities and reputable businesses will have proper ID. When in doubt, look up the company's phone number and call to verify the identity of the workers. 
  •  Ask for an address and phone number if the workers tell you they are self-employed.
  •  If you agree work should be done, ask for an estimate in writing and tell the workers you'll get back to them. 
  •  Always get a second opinion and written estimates from one or two local firms.
  •  Get all guarantees in writing. 
  •  Ask for the names of references and call them. 
  •  Remember, if an offer is good "now or never," you can bet it never will be good.
  •  If you encounter a suspected home repair gypsy, say "no," close your door and call local authorities immediately. 

Do you need help regarding consumer protection matters? If so, contact one of our experienced Consumer Protection Lawyers in your area today!

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