As we wrap up this year’s hot, humid summer, homeowners will start planning what needs to be done inside and around the house to get it ready for what is expected to be a frigid winter.
Better Business Bureau is alerting residents that autumn brings a rush of home repair scams and how not to fall for these.
Scammers can’t wait for cooler weather because it’s the ideal time to con homeowners into ordering home repairs.
Protect yourself:Scams and cons are big business in the United States.
They steal thousands of dollars this way for unnecessary or shoddy work.
This is especially true with senior citizens, who might not be able to go up on the roof or into the attic to do the work themselves.
It is not uncommon to have a contractor show up on your doorstep uninvited. The scammer often will say they were doing some repair work in the neighborhood and happened to see that your home might have a serious problem.
They’ll offer to fix your roof, re-pave your driveway or perform other repairs or renovations for what sounds like an excellent price.
Typical home improvement scams
Energy audits/door-to-door furnace repairs
Many scammers offer a “free” energy audit to reduce heating costs, claiming to be a representative from your local utility company. They insist on costly upgrades for your attic, such as solar blankets or insulation, and may or may not burglarize your home while conducting the audit.
Scammers disguised as chimney sweeps will tell you your chimney needs to be inspected and then use hard sales tactics to get you to make expensive, unfounded repairs. Don’t fall for it.
Fraudulent gutter cleaners tend to prey on the elderly or those who cannot clean their gutters easily. They will claim they have worked in the neighborhood before and quote you a very low estimate in return for shoddy, incomplete work.
Ductwork cleaning is rarely a necessity, so take caution. Scammers are known to damage your heating system while cleaning it to leech more money out of you for repairs. They also may create indoor air hazards.
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How scammers tend to operate
- They show up at your door unexpectedly. So never let anyone into your house that you don’t know
- They quickly point out a problem they say needs repair without much inspection.
- They mention that they have leftover materials from a project they just finished nearby so they could do the repair right away.
- They offer extremely low prices to do the repair
- They only accept cash or check
- They promise an unconditional guarantee on the work.
- They pressure you to start work immediately
How to avoid getting scammed
- Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to see contractors’ ratings and whether any complaints have been filed against them.
- Insist on seeing references. You should ask past customers detailed questions, including whether the project was completed on time and if there were unexpected costs.
- Require a bid in writing and compare offers from multiple contractors before agreeing to any work.
- Get a written contract before you pay any money and before the work starts.
- Illinois law requires that contractors provide a written contract for any project over $1,000.
- Read the fine print. A contract should include a detailed description of the work, material costs, start and completion dates and warranty information.
- Before you make the final payment, verify that all work has been completed to your satisfaction, any subcontractors or suppliers have been paid, and the job site has been cleaned up.
Dennis Horton is director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.