Home improvement scams come in different forms, from fake maintenance specialists going from door to door offering low-cost services to those that increase the initial price of their work after doing poor-quality repairs.
They are not easy to spot, but you should know how to protect yourself.
Let’s get started!
Types of Home Improvement Scams
Home improvement scams often increase with bad weather when you are more likely to have some damages that need fixing. Scammers know this and are happy to show up uninvited to offer their services, usually at subsidized prices.
So, if you get a flyer at your door from a supposed handyperson or one knocks on your door, you need to be careful. You could be the target of this con.
To avoid falling victim to such fraud, let’s introduce you to some of the most common home improvement scams:
1. Free inspections
Frauds of this nature usually begin with a phone call or knock on the door. You’ll be informed of a problem a “handyman” noticed in your house, and they’ll offer to inspect it. After inspection, they’ll tell you that they can fix the problem with a huge discount.
They will ask for a large deposit or a full payment upfront if you accept their proposal. Either way, payment will be in cash or an unusual method. Once you pay, they’ll never return.
2. Home improvement loans
You should be alert if a handyperson comes to you with a home improvement loan offer for a major project. Usually, these projects could be a new roof or repairs of a major part of your home. Homeowners badly hit by a storm are often the targets of this kind of con.
Knowing that you may not have the resources readily available for such repairs, you may be tempted to sign the papers without reading through them thoroughly. Scammers may pretend to be in too much of a hurry and not allow you to take time to read through and spot blank spots. You may also be made to fill in your bank account details or other personal information.
If you need the repairs, don’t decide on the spot. Shop around for other options and fully understand the loan terms you are about to take. Avoid being pressured to sign any document without reading it carefully.
3. Overcharging for unneeded materials
Sneaky contractors have many ways of executing this fraud. Some may purchase many materials, most of which you don’t need, and charge you for them. They will then return the materials to the store without refunding you.
Others may charge you for materials they already have or get low-quality ones while charging you for better quality.
Be wary of such charges, confirm prices at the store, or buy the needed materials yourself.
4. Adverts on flyers
Although not all flyer advertisements are scams, you may be the target of one if you don’t do your due diligence before hiring the company.
Verify every piece of information from the flyer on review sites and find out if anyone has used this company’s services before. Don’t be too trusting and don’t hire any contractor unquestioningly.
5. Door-to-door handymen
Most deceptions of this nature start with a knock on the door with people claiming they are on a door-to-door search for work. Their reason is that they have just finished working on another project and have some leftover supplies.
To make their offer more appealing, they offer low prices or an unbelievable timeframe for the completion of work.
When you accept such an offer, they may leave after collecting part or full payment, do sketchy work, or raise the initial price.
So, if anyone is looking for work at your doorstep, apply caution before hiring them.
Giveaway Signs of Home Improvement Scams
Home improvement scams are becoming more common and could cost you a lot of money if you don’t watch out for them. Here are some telltale signs that you are the target of a handyman fraud:
1. Uninvited visits
One of the most obvious signs of home improvement fraud is that “handymen” may show up at your doorsteps uninvited. If you didn’t request a repairman, ask them to leave even if they look legit and have a convincing story.
2. No references
Avoid hiring contractors without first asking for references. Most handypersons have worked for other employers and should have someone who can vouch for the quality of their work.
Do not hire them if they refuse to give you any contact information or names of previous employers. Also, if the phone number is provided under pressure, run it through Nuwber to be sure that it belongs to the right individual.
3. Insistence on upfront payment
If any handyman insists on being paid upfront, it is very likely that they do not intend to complete the job or may do very shoddy work. Some of them end up not doing anything at all. An initial deposit should be sufficient to start a job.
4. Demand for cash payment
Con artists don’t want to be tracked. For this reason, they often insist on cash payment or some other form of payment that will leave no trail. Be wary of such contractors.
5. Cheap services
Once a home improvement contractor offers you an unbelievably low bid, you should suspect foul play. Meager prices show that the person will either do shoddy work or cause you more problems. Ask all the right questions and turn them away if they give evasive answers.
6. No written contract
Don’t allow anyone to repair your home without signing a contract. It should include the contractor’s name, contact information, payment details, date of commencement and completion, a clear description of the task at hand, and other important details.
Tips for Avoiding Home Improvement Scams
We’ve covered the basis of handyman frauds and how to spot them. If you or your loved one believes they might soon be a target of con artists, you should learn how to keep yourself safe.
The following tips can help:
Report the fraud
If you suspect that you are about to be defrauded, report to the FTC, the consumer protection office in your state of residence, the Better Business Bureau, or any other agency that might be able to help.
Always ask for references
It’s best to hire contractors recommended by family members or other people you trust. But you can also look up their references before hiring them. Be sure to work only with vetted contractors.
Have a binding contract in writing
Contracts should be written and read carefully before you sign. Both parties should fill in all blank spaces, and no vital information should be omitted.
Don’t pay for any work in full upfront
If the handyperson must get paid upfront, ensure it is stated in your contract. Don’t pay in full until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
Many sites provide reviews and ratings for contractors and businesses. Read them critically and be sure the information there is genuine before letting them into your home.
Do not hire handypersons without a license or insurance
Confirm the handyperson’s license from the respective government agency in your city. Don’t forget to ask for their insurance papers.
As a homeowner, it takes careful observation and watchfulness not to fall into the trap of scammers.
We’ve provided you with all you need to know to stay safe while keeping your home in optimal condition. Don’t forget to report contractor fraud and inform your family and friends so they don’t become victims.