Signs of a Home Improvement Scam
Unfortunately, where there is money, there are scammers out there to take it. Home improvement workers and “contractors” are certainly no exception. You can avoid falling victim to a home improvement scam, however, if you are vigilant and know the signs.
The very first rule in hiring a contractor for any work on your home or otherwise is to see proof of license and insurance. Having the correct license and insurance protects both you and the contractor in the event of unforeseen circumstances like accidents or damage. Proof of license and insurance is also a good indicator of what kind of professional you are hiring.
Make No Exceptions
If, at any time, a potential contractor makes excuses about having or showing you proof of these credentials, get away from that deal as soon as possible.
Some possible excuses to watch out for are:
- “You don’t need a license for this kind of work.”
- “I left my license at home/the office/somewhere else.”
- “My license and insurance information were destroyed.”
- “I can offer you a cheaper deal since I don’t have a license.”
You may feel like a hard person sticking to these rules, but you’ll be glad you did.
Wheeling and Dealing
A potential home improvement scam artist might also offer you all type of deals. For example, he or she might offer you a great deal because they have materials left over from a previous job or because they “know a guy”.
Such a person might also seem a little too pushy about accepting their services, or will ask you to make an on the spot decision rather than giving you time to weigh options. See also the above scenario about offering deals based on a lack of credentials.
Cash Only Deals
Be wary of anyone who requests that you pay up front and in cash only. It is normal to pay a deposit, which you should do by check only, but it is not normal to pay the entire fee in cash up front. This is very questionable behavior of a real contractor.
Other than watching out for sketchy behavior and trusting your gut instinct if you don’t like someone, there are a few other red flags to watch out for when hiring a potential contractor for your home improvement project.
Don’t trust anyone that:
- Offers pricing way below the competition.
- Refers you to a friend or “partner” for financing.
- Requests that you be responsible for permits, etc.
- Offers too good to be true warranties or pricing.
- Does not have a professional listing in directories, including phone number and address.
- Comes to you for a job rather than being sought out.
There are also some things you can do to actively protect yourself from scams like this:
- Do your research.
- Always request the license and insurance information, and follow up to confirm that everything is legitimate.
- Ask for references and follow up with them as well.
- Insist upon detailed contracts.
Save yourself the hassle and expense of a home improvement scam. An incident like this could cost you thousands of dollars, a huge headache, or worse. Be vigilant about all of these items and trust your gut if you feel distrustful of anyone you interview as a potential contractor. There are scammers pretty much everywhere, don’t fall victim to one of their traps.