Home improvement and repair scams are one of the most common, and profitable, scams out there. They happen so often, they are often the top complaint at the Better Business Bureau each year and local news channels, even national shows such as Dateline, are calling attention to them.
While most contractors are honest and well meaning, many others are out to do one thing, separate you from your money. Worse, they target the most vulnerable and trusting among us, especially the elderly.
Anyone who has looked for a contractor understands how confusing it can be. Especially in larger Metro areas such as Atlanta, where you can have hundreds to choose from. Estimates vary wildly and everyone seems so sincere about their prices and services being better than the others. It can be difficult to tell who is they good guy and who is not.
If you are in need of a home repair or home improvement contractor, including roof contractors, keep an eye out for these 5 scams and avoid them at all costs!
1) The Old Bait & Switch
The oldest trick in the book is the bait and switch. A common tactic simply because it works so well. It preys upon the human tendency to want to get the best deal as possible. The way it usually works is: a company sends out flyers, takes an ad out in the newspaper, on websites, or even door to door. They advertise a ridiculously low price for something like a new roof for $500 (even free!). Someone sees they can get something they need at what appears to be a great deal and call the company.
Once the “contractor” arrives, the truth comes out. All of a sudden your home is different than most and needs much more than the “base” advertised price. Next thing you know you have an estimate for hundreds or thousands more. The lesson here? If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
2) The Left-Over Or “Extra” Materials Scam
Another common scam for the scummier scammers, is the “I just left another job and have all this extra <insert material here>!” scam. Commonly done by door to door crooks, these guys act as though they have just enough material left over from another job to do exactly what you need. They claim they are going to throw it away or it will go bad overnight and they are willing to do it cheap if you let them do it now. Common among driveway and driveway sealant contractors, this scam happens all over the country.
The problem is, these aren’t extra materials at all, it’s usually substandard (or worse damaging) material that they throw together specifically to get your money. They do the job quickly (and many times, sloppily) and once they are gone, they are gone. The minute they start talking about left-over or extra materials at a discount, cut them loose.
3) “Storm Chaser” Scams
Some call them “Gypsy Contractors” or “Storm Chasers” but they all have one thing in common. They appear in droves just after a major storm preying upon desperate homeowners with storm damage. They are especially successful after bigger storms when most contractors are busy helping other customers and are backlogged.
As roofs comprise many of the damages from hail, wind, and rain, roof scams are popular with these scoundrels. Do your homework and avoid the door to door “roofers” especially during this time to prevent becoming a victim.
4) The Money Up-Front or Large “Deposits” Scam
One of the easier scams (largely because no real work needs to be done) is the type where the “contractor” requires a large sum up-front or the whole total estimate, right now. In most cases, these guys will just take the money and disappear leaving you wondering what happened and your wallet a bit lighter. Now reputable contractors may ask for a small initial deposit with the rest due upon completion, or if it’s a larger job, deposits in stages until the job is complete. If you did your homework and everything else checks out you’re likely ok, but if you know little to nothing about them or they are requiring a large chunk of the total cost, avoid it like the plague.
5) The Cheapest Guys In The Business
Finally, you have the cheap contractors who constantly advertise super low prices for their services. Some carpet cleaning services are notorious for this, offering really cheap rates and receiving a sub-par service that could’ve been done with a vacuum and some hot water.
There are plenty of “legitimate” companies like this, that while not scamming you outright, do the bare minimum to stay in business and offer the lowest price. You may be getting the cheapest price, but keep in mind you’re only getting the basics with these guys and more often than not, that amounts to cheapest materials and service. Remember you get what you pay for!
Knowledge is power, and knowing the signs of a scam is just the beginning. These guys have been doing this for years and really know their stuff, the best you can do is arm yourself with information to avoid them and avoid becoming a victim.