It’s spring! Inevitably, with spring comes crabgrass and dandelions. There is something else that sprouts up every spring just as regularly and much more loathsome — scammers!
We at the BBB have recently seen a big uptick in calls to our office from consumers asking about reliable, trustworthy contractors and service providers to spruce up their homes after the winter. Roofs, lawn care, spouting, driveways, foundations and more head the list of repairs and maintenance needed.
This spring, don’t be a victim of home repair scammers. Protect yourself by recognizing the following red flags:
• Be very leery of anyone appearing at your door uninvited. This time of year, fraudulent contractors know consumers want to get their home back in tip-top shape as soon as possible, so they drive up and down the streets, stopping at doors, offering immediate work. They commonly drive pickup trucks having no identification or telephone numbers. They often claim to have “extra material” left over from a job they did in the neighborhood and give a “special deal, available today only.” At even the slightest sign of interest from the consumer, they step up the pressure to make a decision immediately. Bad, bad idea!
• A contractor demanding large, excessive amounts upfront before they can start work is another warning sign, particularly if payment must be in cash. BBB recommends paying no more than a third of the project upfront.
• Be wary if a contractor or service provider lacks, is vague or reluctant to furnish proper identification. Legitimate providers welcome such requests and have no problem granting them.
• Some of the more common types of home repair scams involve driveway sealing, leaky foundations, landscaping work and roof repair.
You’ve seen some of the red flags. Now, what are precautions you can take to avoid being a scam victim?
• Ask friends and family for referrals. Check any contractors’ or service providers’ references, and visit the sites named to check the quality of the work itself, if possible.
• Make sure the contractor is insured. Ask for their insurance credentials.
• Get at least three to four estimates on any home repair or service work before signing a contract.
• Never pay in full upfront, especially if cash is the only form of payment accepted.
• Make sure the contractor is up to date with any required state or local government licenses or registrations.
• Put down in writing the scope of the work to be done, the total cost, the time needed to complete the job, as well as how payment is to be handled.
• If you can, pay by credit card. You may have additional protection if there’s a problem. Otherwise, pay by check, never with cash!
• Check for complaints with us at the Better Business Bureau. We can give you the number and nature of any complaints plus give you the business’s BBB rating.
There are lots of legitimate contractors and service providers in our area that do good work at fair prices. Protect yourself this spring by doing your homework to find them. Feel free to give us a call at BBB to check on potential contractors or if you feel you’ve been scammed.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.