Scam artists are nothing new and we are hearing about them even more frequently during this tough economy. While the elderly are often the victims, any of us who don’t pay close attention could fall prey to their tactics. Often when an offer sounds too good to turn down it should be seen as a red flag to look closer at what the reality is and research the contractor further. Below are a few common tactics that the scamming contractor may use.
- Payment Before Work
NEVER pay for a job in full before work is completed and do NOT trust a contractor that asks you to! In California, a contractor may not ask for more than 10% or $1,000 down, whichever is less. On larger jobs, the balance of the contract amount may be paid in “progress payments” coinciding with completion milestones. The final payment should not be made until the job is complete.
- “One-Time” Special Offer
We all know that most businesses hold sales throughout the year, and recently it seems they are more frequent than ever. So it’s a little hard to believe that this is the “one time” that a company has ever or will ever offer a special. Don’t be pressured into accepting a deal that will expire before you’ve had a chance to do research, get competing bids and check references.
- The “Random” Contractor
If someone claiming to be a contractor pulls up in an unmarked truck wants to talk to you, be cautious! Stay outdoors in public view and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Anyone that enters your home is a potential burglar, or worse. Verify their name, business name and license number, address and telephone number. If you are considering working with them make sure you check their insurance information, bonding, and reputation. You don’t want a fly-by-night contractor that will be nowhere to be found if something goes wrong a year down the road.
The Bottom Line
Common sense and good judgment offer the best protection from contractor scams. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Take advantage of resources such as the Better Business Bureau and the Contractor State License Board to check the contractor’s business reputation and credentials. If there is a history of customer complaints, lawsuits or expired licenses, you probably should steer clear of that contractor. Take your time to find the right fit for you and your project and ask for references. Get more than one estimate for your project, compare “apples to apples” and make sure you understand why there may be price differences. Most importantly, don’t sign any contract that you don’t understand completely. A good contractor will take the time to answer your questions patiently and thoroughly without high sales pressure.