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Don't Get Nailed - How to Avoid Home Improvement Scams

With the strange weather lately we've experienced warmer temps, heavy rains and even tornadoes! You may have damage to fix or just want to make overall improvements. Finding a contractor and vendors can be a headache, and while most are honest, there are some out there who are running a ruse. These frauds have two things in common: they want your money and they take advantage of what you don't know. They tend to target older individuals living alone or those who are victims of weather-related disasters. Driveway, chimney, siding and roofing are common scams.

If a contractor or vendor does the following, you should be skeptical.

  • Asks you to pay for an entire job upfront or in cash.
  • Is not visible online or doesn't have an actual business address.
  • Offers you a discount to help find other customers.
  • Prices their services at extremely low, too-good-to-be true rates
  • Pressures you to act immediately to get a special offer or discount.
  • Says you must do repairs immediately or face additional damage to your home.
  • Tries to get you to sign contracts or paperwork without reading them.
  • Asks to come into your home.
  • Talks fast to try and confuse you.

Driveway Scam
A "contractor" knocks on your door and says they have been working down the street and have materials left over and noticed your driveway needs to be resealed. He (or she) says they're only charging for labor and the cost is cheap. Once the work is complete, they ask for cash and if you refuse to pay right away, they'll threaten to call the police for theft of services.

Chimney, Roof, and Siding Scam
Same story as the driveway scam, they've been working down the street and noticed you have ice or hail damage to your chimney, roof and/or siding. He (or she) appeals to your worries about leaking or additional damage and quotes a low price to fix. They do a small repair then asks for more money saying the damage was more severe than expected.

So how do you avoid these scams?

First, your city, county, regional or state consumer offices are resources for information on how to protect yourself. For a list of consumer offices nationwide, visit usa.gov/state-consumer. Most cities have rules that anyone approaching homes as a vendor needs to be licensed through the city and show proper identification.

But the best way to avoid a scam is to know what to look out for. If you get the sense something isn't right or seems shady, trust your sense and call the police.