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Watch Out for Fall Contractor Scams

Be ware of scammers going door-to-door and offering seasonal services, such as leaf raking, chimney sweeping or window installation. These con artists may just take your money without ever delivering the service.Be ware of scammers going door-to-door and offering seasonal services, such as leaf raking, chimney sweeping or window installation. These con artists may just take your money without ever delivering the service. How the Scam Works: You answer the door, and it's a "handyman." He says that he's been hired by the neighbors to clean the chimney, install storm windows, rake the leaves or perform another seasonal service. He claims that he can give you a discount price because he is already working in the neighborhood. You need the work done, so you take him up on the offer. He asks for a partial payment upfront, and he will return the next day after he finishes the neighbor's job. However, he takes the money and is never seen again. In another version of the scam, the contractor will arrive and perform the service. But in doing so, he finds a "major problem" that needs to be fixed immediately. And of course, he's perfectly suited to perform the expensive repair. How to Protect Yourself from Contractor Scams: Contractor scams appear when homeowners have the most work to do: after major storms and during the change of seasons. Follow these tips when hiring someone to work on your home.
  • Work with local businesses: Make sure the contractor has appropriate identification that tells you it's a legitimate company versus a fly-by-night operator. Things like permanent lettering on trucks, uniforms, printed invoice and estimate sheets, business cards, physical addresses, land line phones, etc. are all signs of an established business.
  • Check references: Get references from several past customers. Get both older references (at least a year old) so you can check on the quality of the work and newer references so you can make sure current employees are up to the task. Check BBB.org: BBB Business Reviews are more than just a grade. You can also read past complaints from customers, find out about licensing and government actions, and more.
  • Make sure it's legal: Confirm that any business being considered for hire is licensed and registered to do work in your area. Also, if in doubt, request proof of a current insurance certificate from a contractor's insurance company.
  • Get it in writing: And always be sure to get a written contract with the price, materials and timeline. The more detail, the better.
  • Watch for "red flags": Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, and on-site inspections. Don't allow someone in your home or on your roof until you have had a chance to thoroughly check them out.
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