Nearly 70 percent of American households own their homes. At some point, each one of those homes will require the services of a contractor. Plumber, electrician, exterminator, butcher, baker, candlestick maker. For every service, there is a provider. Some are listed in the Yellow Pages, some advertise in the local paper, some rely on word of mouth.
Others put a leaflet in your screen door, or stop by because they were just in the neighborhood and noticed that your paint was peeling. Or that your driveway needed repaving. A common ploy is to say that they were working on another house in the neighborhood and can give you a discount because they have leftover materials. Beware anyone bearing leftover asphalt.
Contracting scams are not complicated. They involve charging and in many cases overcharging for services that are not completed as promised. Real life examples include:
- Companies hired for asbestos abatement who leave large traces of asbestos behind
- Chimney sweeps that tell customers their chimneys have holes in them and need costly repairs
- Driveway repaving that costs thousands more than agreed and cracks within days
Senior citizens make especially easy targets. Many live alone. They may be more trusting and easier to manipulate. Because of physical limitations, they may not be in a position to verify that work needs to be or has been done. Once they have paid an unscrupulous contractor for work, they will no doubt be hit up again for more money. Scam artists have even been known to accompany elderly victims to the bank to access their money more quickly.
Many scamming contractors are transient, moving in and out of areas quickly in order to find new victims and to avoid being detected. They are found often in the wake of natural disasters or severe weather, when they know people will be in need of extensive home repairs. Some go even further. A Midwest contractor was charged with inflicting damage on roofs in order to be hired for repair jobs. Following a big hail storm, the company offered free inspections to homeowners. Workers then created their own work by damaging the exterior of the homes.