Scams and Frauds
Dealing with contractors
A roofing contractor who
hadn’t seen much business lately went neighborhood by
neighborhood, offering to do free roof inspections.
The roofing contractor offered a story about how the original builder used
inadequate roofing materials and that he has personally come
across three houses in the neighborhood that would have had
serious damage if not for his free inspection.
He of course indicates that there is no cost for the
inspection, but if damage is found, he can give phenomenal prices
due to his crew already being in the neighborhood.
So an elderly
woman, who has nothing to lose, agrees to his offer.
After all, the man seems nice and sincere, and of course,
the inspection was free. Who wouldn’t take advantage of a free offer like this?
If such repairs were necessary, it only makes sense that
this roofer would be able to give better pricing because of volume
within the neighborhood. Allowing
him to do this would certainly save her tons of misery if there
was damage and the next rain storm caused the roof to leak.
You guessed it;
the roofer found that the shingles were weak and poorly attached.
"A good wind and rainstorm and there would most certainly be
major damage." How
lucky could she be that this nice man had come along when he did?
The $7500 price
tag seemed somewhat high, but what did she know about prices?
And how ungrateful could she be to question this nice man
who’d come along with his free offer and had saved her home.
As he kept telling her, he was giving her a 20% discount
for signing up right now and ordering the same shingles as the
other 3 families.
he had his crew in the neighborhood next week and it only made
sense that he could get some quantity discounts if he could
purchase triple the usual number of shingles.
Just a few
woman’s house didn’t need shingles.
was her roof in good condition, the quoted price was about
twice what it should have been.
was no grade of shingles specified, the roofer was free to put
on the cheapest grade he could find. In the end, the woman ended up with a worse roof than what
she started with.
I: The repairman/free inspection
One of the most
common frauds that is perpetrated on seniors is one that is
committed by those who wish to perform upgrades or repairs on or
within the home. Seniors
are often short of or trying to retain their cash, and are fearful
of impending consequential damage.
They also want
to maintain their household but are ill equipped to make certain
judgments as to the necessity of such repairs.
An elderly woman is not likely to follow a roof repairman
up on top or navigate the crawl-space to determine the integrity
of the foundation. Even
if she did, she probably doesn’t have the expertise to determine
the accuracy of the assessment.
A fraudulent contractor depends upon these facts.
II: Insurance - The willing
Another type of
contractor fraud actually pulls the homeowner in on an insurance scam.
The contractor usually approaches potential victims whose
homes are in need of repair and suggests that he can help them get
their home repaired at little to no cost.
It sounds simple.
comes in and creates additional damage to the property and tells
the homeowner to file a claim with the insurance company, saying
that wind, hail, broken pipes, or some other accident damaged the
and homeowner agree that in exchange for the contract, the
contractor will perform all repairs and not charge the homeowner
homeowner gets a much needed repair done at the expense of the
insurance company who "would never miss the money
In essence, it is justified by the idea that there is no crime or victim.
foul, no harm? Hardly!
explained to the homeowner is that by signing a fraudulent claim,
they in fact are committing a crime, insurance fraud.
Insurance companies are often hit this way and are
taking this problem very seriously. They will prosecute. And guess who they will prosecute.
Not the contractor. He
has given an estimate that doesn’t indicate anything illegal and
can easily place all the blame on the homeowner.
The contractor certainly isn't going to admit that he has caused
the damage or that he suggested filing a false insurance claim.
Filing a false
claim with an insurance company is serious business and doing so
can cause unbelievable trouble.
Insurance companies are on the lookout for such scams
and they are experts at finding them. The name of the contractor alone could trigger an
If you run into one of these shysters,
run... don't walk!
III: Take the
money and run
contractor swindles are quite prevalent and yet it’s so easy to
stay out of their way. Merchants
who have been in business and want to stay in business seldom run
these scams. It
usually starts with a knock at the door by someone claiming to be
a contractor who is doing work in the neighborhood and willing to
work quickly and cheaply.
The scam comes
when he claims to need money to go out and pick up the supplies
but will be right back. He
even says that he doesn’t want complete payment until after the
job is completed.
He never comes back with supplies.
Occasionally, these guys even start some demolition work
before they leave, but once the money is in hand, they’re gone. Not only are you out the money, but they’ve often left
damaged property behind which may cost more to repair than the
original job would have.
scams is easy. If you need work done, call a legitimate contractor instead
of trying to save a few dollars.
Make sure that you get a written estimate or proposal and
make sure that you fully understand the terms before you agree to
pay down payment charges by credit card.
That way, you can dispute the charges with the credit card
company and they are usually willing to take your side if
something goes wrong.
Never sign an
agreement with a contractor that shows up to your door without
your specific invitation. If
you didn’t call him, you probably don’t need him.
If you suspect there is a problem, ask friends and family
for recommendations on contractors that they have been pleased
Always be sure
to get at least three estimates on work to be done.
If there is a wide discrepancy, ask each to justify their
Be sure to
compare apples to apples
insurance including worker’s compensation
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
sure that everything that you have verbally agreed to is in the
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