Picture this: A friendly contractor shows up at your door, saying he paved a neighbor’s driveway or sidewalk. While there, he noticed your property could use some work and is willing to give you a discount. Sure, it’s a nice offer, but it’s actually a contractor scam that could cost you big time.
Before you hire a contractor, you should ask specific questions, like “Are you licensed and insured?” You want to ensure the contractor you’re talking to is qualified for whatever home improvement project you have in mind. Tap or click here for six questions every homeowner should be asking.
Accountability flies out the window when you’re talking to a scammer. You can’t trust a single word that comes out of their mouths. That’s why we’re giving you all the details of the latest contractor scam robbing homeowners.
Look out for these red flags — or you’ll get robbed
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns about a popular scam that can start with a knock on the door or a pamphlet in your mailbox. Either way, you’re told that contractors have been working in your area. By pure chance, they noticed your driveway or sidewalk could use some work.
Whether scammers reach out in person or through paper, one thing is consistent. They say that since they’re already working in your area, they can help you out. Even better, they offer a discount. But to secure the deal, you need to pay part of the fee upfront.
Use this insider tip to catch a contractor scam
However, these scammers haven’t perfected their methods. According to the Better Business Bureau, they might stumble when you push them to answer specific questions, like:
- What’s the name of your company?
- Where is your company located?
- What prices do you offer for different jobs?
- How long will the job take?
- Who will be working on my property?
Bottom line: They expect you to swallow their lies hook, line and sinker. So ask a few pointed questions. You’ll know they’re just sharks looking for blood when they flounder.
Legitimate contractors would know the answers
Or, at least, they could point to an official website you can check for more information. However, many people don’t think critically when there is a chance to save money. They leap at the opportunity to get a discount, signing the dotted line.
If you fall for one of these scams, one of two things will happen next:
- Firstly, the scammers might take your money and disappear. You get nothing but record silence when you reach out to the contact number or email. If you protest, the fake contractors might threaten to sue you if you don’t pay up.
- Secondly, the scammers might come to your house … and destroy it. They’ll be shoddy, sloppy and even dangerous. They might tear up your driveway or sidewalk, doing more harm than good.
Either way, you probably won’t get your money back. They’ll likely bail on their promises once you pay. And even if they do show up, they’ll do such a lousy job that you wish they hadn’t!
Avoiding contractor scams
The BBB says contractor scams have been rising recently, so it shared some ideas to avoid falling victim. Here are some suggestions:
- Be wary of unsolicited offers. Most scams involving contractors begin when a random contractor makes an effort to go out of their way to offer an estimate that was never requested.
- Research companies and contractors before you hire. Start with BBB.org. If the contractor has multiple negative reviews and complaints, don’t hire them. A simple internet search often reveals companies or individuals involved in fraudulent activities or provided unsatisfactory work to previous clients.
- Get everything in writing. Ask for an estimate in writing before payment is discussed. Don’t let a contractor start working on a project until a written, signed contract outlining start and complete dates, a detailed description of the work to be provided, material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information is provided.
- Stagger payments. Most contractors will require a percentage of the total price upfront, but it should never be the full price before the work has begun. Instead, agree to stagger payments so work can be inspected at various project stages.
- Use safe payment methods. Paying with a credit card is wise since the credit card company will help you if the contractor is fraudulent. If you use a check, write it to a company, not an individual. Paying cash or using an electronic wallet app is risky since there is no way to stop payment or get money back if things go wrong.
If you suspect you have fallen for a contractor scam, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help alert others to similar scams.
Bonus: How to find reputable contractors
Sure, you could Google for a contractor nearby. Trust us when we say that’s a bad idea. Scammers are waiting for people like you, who are in a bind and need someone fast. Beyond that, you may find an actual contractor, but who knows if that person will do a good job.
Instead, download the Angi app. Our sponsor, Angi, takes all the hassles and frustrations out of getting the right people to do things around the house. Name your project and Angi will step in and help you complete it in a jiffy.