Home improvement scams happen year-round. However, this time of year offers new opportunities for scammers including leaf removal, gutter cleaning, and roof repair. Although there are many honest and hardworking contractors working hard for your business, there are several con-artists looking to rip off potential customers, especially older adults. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lose an estimated $1.4 billion to fraud and scams annually. Below are some helpful tips for protecting yourself from would-be home improvement scammers.
Do your research. Before you pick a company for your home improvement project, do lots of research. Organizations like the Better Business Bureau can make finding a reputable company much easier.
Never pay cash up front. It’s far too easy for a fraudster to take the money and run. Usually, they will say they’re leaving to go buy more materials. Although deposits are often necessary for a big project, they usually only ask for a third of the total estimate when the materials arrive on the job site. Using a credit card will ensure that you have protection against scammers. If you use a credit card, your credit card company can work with you to dispute any fraudulent charges.
Be cautious of door-to-door salesmen. Would-be scammers often come knocking unsolicited, with some issue he noticed with your home as he was driving by or working on a neighbor’s home. Never let the individual in your home and if they won’t leave after being asked, call the police.
Communicate. Make sure you establish a strong connection with your contractor before any work starts. Expectations should be clear and outlined explicitly in a valid contract. If the service isn’t living up to the expectations, it’s very important to speak with the provider as quickly as possible.
We’ve all heard the nightmare stories of dishonest contractors preying on vulnerable individuals and older adults. By doing your homework and following these tips, you can protect yourself from a potential scammer.
ElderServe’s Crime Victim Services program offers education and support to help older adults avoid scams. Our advocates work with first responders and others to recognize the conditions that put older adults at risk for abuse, neglect and exploitation.