Scam artists are an invasive species; as soon as the first one showed up thousands of years ago, they were here to stay. Lately, a number of people have been noticing repair scams, where people will make bogus offers or skip completing home repairs they’ve contracted for.
Home repair scams a common complaint
According to NBC News, the website formerly known as MSNBC, complaints of repair scams are one of the fastest-growing consumer gripes in the past few years in an annual consumer survey by the Consumer Federation of America. The CFA, a leading consumer advocacy organization, keeps track of all the complaints and grumblings it receives every year, and releases the greatest hits. Home repair scams are now number three on the CFA’s top ten list of most common complaints, the first time it has appeared in the top ten.
The CFA has been getting more notices of malfeasant repair personnel lately. Homeowners who aren’t obstinately DIY types should keep their eyes peeled, as home repair scams have some telltale signs.
Door to door is to be abhorred
Common repair or home improvement scams are gutter-cleaning and chimney repair scams, or people claiming to see a problem that they can fix. One of the biggest red flags, according to NBC News, Bankrate and the Federal Trade Commission, is door-to-door sales.
Other red flags include claims of having materials “left over” from a previous job, asking only for cash payment, asking the homeowner to provide permits for the work and, as with many other scams, asking for upfront payment. If they try to help with financing or “know somebody” who can, tell them to hit the bricks.
Hiring a contractor means allowing them access to one’s home; anyone trying to pressure a homeowner into letting them work on their home is probably up to no good.
Elderly commonly targeted
Many scam artists target the elderly and infirm. A common tactic is to give a low estimate for a job and then drastically overcharge. It also isn’t just a scam, it’s illegal. A suspected scam should be reported immediately to the authorities.
For instance, according to the York Dispatch, two men were recently arrested in York, Penn., for allegedly conning an elderly woman into allowing them to trim her trees. They showed up, offered the work for $125 per tree and started before she agreed. After “lightly trimming” two of her trees, they told her she owed them $5,500, but agreed to take $5,000 in cash, which she paid.
In 2011, according to the Dallas Morning News, authorities in the Dallas area warned of a man named James David Herrin, who was soliciting work from area residents, especially elderly people. One trick was sending someone to a home to tell the owner they saw a squirrel coming out of a hole somewhere in the home’s exterior. They would offer to “tighten some boards” and then charge several thousand dollars for a few turns of a screwdriver. According to the Texas Tribune, Herrin is currently serving a prison sentence for five counts of Theft from an Elderly Person. Herrin has multiple previous convictions for home repair fraud.
York Dispatch: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/ci_21194485/two-accused-tree-trimming-home-repair-scam
Dallas Morning News: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20110216-dallas-police-arrest-man-in-home-repair-scams-targeting-the-elderly.ece
Texas Tribune: http://www.texastribune.org/library/data/texas-prisons/inmates/james-david-herrin/252129/