By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects*
Just like migrating birds arrive as the weather warms, so do the scammers. Home repair con artists are out in force this time of year—“flocking” to your neighborhood. These scammers are looking to make a quick buck; and unfortunately, older adults are most vulnerable.
According to the National Consumer League, the most common types of home repair scams are:
- Duct cleaning
- Driveway sealant
- Leaky foundations
- Furnace and roof repair
Don’t be a victim—know the signs!
- A contractor shows up uninvited, or will call or email out of the blue.
- The contractor tells you he/she is in the neighborhood and has “extra material” left over.
- The person pressures you to make a decision today because the “special offer” is for today only.
- The contractor points out a “problem” or offers a “free” inspection. Some scammers have been known to break something on purpose so they can be paid to “fix” the problem.
- The person demands full payment up front and usually wants cash.
- The individual has no identification or permits from the county or city.
- You are offered a discount so your home may be used as a “model”.
- The contractor wants to show you the “damage”, while an associate steals valuables from your home.
Tips to avoid being scammed by home repair con artists:
- Don’t allow yourself to be pressured. You have the right to say NO!
- Get several estimates on any home repair job.
- Check references including checking with the Better Business Bureau.
- Never pay in full up front, especially if paying by cash.
- It is very important that the contractor is insured and bonded—ask to see proof.
- Make sure everything is put in writing. Carefully read all the contracts and be sure you fully understand the scope of the work to be done, cost and time necessary to complete the job. Have in writing how payment will be handled. Make sure you understand the contract cancellation and refund terms.
- Ask for advice from a trusted friend or family member, especially if you are feeling pressured or have questions and concerns.
If you suspect you have been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to tell someone you trust. You can turn to the police, go to your bank if money has been taken from your account or seek help from adult protective services. In Missouri the adult protective service toll free number is 1-800-392-0210. To find the adult protective service contact information in other states, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored resource line, at 1-800-677-1116 or at www.eldercare.gov.
Excerpts from National Council on Aging and National Consumer League
*Pam Gennings has a Bachelor’s of Arts and has worked in the field of Geriatric Social Work and Care Coordination for more than 30 years. She started working for Oxford HealthCare in 1993. During the course of her career she has helped thousands of people find resources to remain in their homes as well as provided guidance to families that were facing difficulties with their aging loved ones.