Don’t Get Taken by Fake Contractors

This is the time of year when homeowners repair winter damage, perform normal maintenance or undertake special projects on their homes. Many of them hire contractors to ensure that the job is done right. However, not all of these contractors are legit.

To make sure that you don’t get taken by fakes and crooks, the AARP Fraud Watch Network has put together some tips.

Here are the warning signs of potential scams:

  • Door-to-door salespersons with no local connections offering to do home repair work for less money than is normal.
  • Solicitations for repair work from a company that provides only a telephone number or post office box number to contact, especially if the company is out-of-state.
  • Contractor who fails to provide customer references when requested.
  • Persons offering to inspect your home for free—do not admit anyone into your home unless they can present authentic identification establishing their business status. If in doubt, don’t hesitate to call the worker’s employer to verify their identity.
  • Contractors demanding cash payment for a job or ask for a check made payable to person other than the owner or company name.
  • Offers to drive you to the bank to withdraw funds to pay for the work.

Even if you don’t see these warning signs, it’s a good idea to follow these guidelines when hiring a contractor:

  • Get all estimates in writing.
  • Don’t feel pressured into signing.
  • Never sign if the contract has blank spaces or there are sections you don’t understand.
  • If taking out a loan to finance the work, don’t sign the contract until your lender approves the loan.
  • Remember that you have three business days to cancel your contract if the sale was made at your home.
  • If the contractor does business under a name other than the contractor’s real name, the business must be incorporated or registered under the Assumed Business Name Act.
  • Check with local and county units of government to determine if permits or inspections are required.
  • Determine whether the contractor will guarantee his or her work and products.
  • Find out whether the contractor has the proper insurance.
  • Know who provides supplies and labor for any work performed on your home. Supplies and subcontractors have a right to file a lien against your property if the general contractor fails to pay them. Request lien waivers to protect yourself and your property.
  • Don’t sign a certificate of completion or make final payments until the work is done to your satisfaction.

AARP adds that you should contact your local police and local attorney general office if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud. To help the authorities investigate you case, you should write down the individual’s driver’s license and car information — including car make, model, and color.

Most contractors are legit, but it never hurts to be safe.

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