The contractor drove off with a truckload of concrete and a pocket full of cash and you were left with a shoddy driveway.
This is a typical scenario of a home improvement scam.
Without knowing what to look for, a conning contractor can take advantage of your home improvement aspirations.
Here are four giveaways that a home contractor might be scamming you and how to protect yourself:
Scam 1: “I have extra materials”
A contractor knocks on your door and claims to have extra materials from a job he just completed down the street. Not wanting to take a loss on the supplies, he offers to pave your driveway or patch your roof for a smoking-good deal.
As tempting as a good deal is, don’t be fooled.
The con artist “contractor” will start working and then claim to find an issue that makes him raise the price of the job. Then if you object, the contractor might walk away, leaving you with a half-finished driveway.
Or he or she may also take your money and run.
Another way this situation could go: He paints your driveway with black paint instead of paving it with asphalt. Then you watch it wash away the next time it rains and cry.
How to protect yourself: Never hire a contractor on the spot. Read reviews and make sure they do quality work before making any deals.
Scam 2: “I have a special offer today”
This home improvement scam usually starts from a newspaper ad or mailer that advertises a home service for a ridiculously low price. After you call and request services, they’ll quote you for a slew of “problems” your house has.
Worried that they need to get these fixes done, unsuspecting homeowners empty their pockets and the contractor leaves without finishing or doing any work at all.
How to protect yourself: Confirm that the contractor’s business is legal, licensed and registered. Request to see a business license and proof of insurance.
Scam 3: “I’ll need the money upfront…”
A conning contractor will tell you that he’ll need a percentage of the project cost upfront. He might tell you the reason is because he needs to order materials or rent supplies.
But once you pay him, he’ll disappear. Or he’ll do a poor job, thinking you can’t fire him because you’ve already paid him hundreds, or thousands.
How to protect yourself: Down payments are a standard practice, but should never be unreasonable. Check the rules in your state regarding down payment limits. Some states limit down payments to 10 percent of the project price or $1,000, whichever is less.
Also, before hiring any one contractor, get at least three different estimates.
Scam 4: “Take my word for it”
While talking with your contractor about the repairs you’d like made, you add in a couple ideas. He gets excited about the ideas and even makes his own suggestions.
You don’t put these ideas into your contact agreement because you think you had such a clear verbal understanding.
Then you’re surprised when the contractor says those upgrades weren’t included in the price – and that you’ll have to fork up more money for them.
How to protect yourself: Always get everything in writing. A legal contract is your safety net, should any issues arise.
Home improvement projects can be overwhelming. Throw in a con man and overwhelming becomes an understatement. Take the right steps in hiring a contractor and help ensure that your home improvement project goes smoothly!