Just as daffodils pop up in the spring, so do home improvement scams, unfortunately. It seems that every homeowner is a potential target. And anyone can fall prey to them; it’s not just the elderly.
These con artists can and do get caught sometimes. Susan and Herman Hinojosa of Adams County, Colorado will serve 8 years in prison (Susan) and 18 years (Herman) for defrauding at-risk adults in a kitchen remodel scam.
How to Recognize Home Improvement Scams
It’s much better to be able to recognize scams and avoid them in the first place. I found some great tips in an unlikely place — The Costco Connection magazine. In an article titled “Don’t Get Nailed,” consumer protection advocates David and Amanda Horowitz warn us to be skeptical when someone:
- Demands payment up front or in cash
- Doesn’t have a presence online (no website; no reviews; etc.)
- Pressures you to decide right now to get a special offer or price
- Offers you a too-good-to-be-true price or timeline
I recommend reading the entire article, since it also gives examples of how common home improvement scams are run.
Other Ways to Protect Against Home Improvement Scams
In addition to these valuable tips, my personal advice for avoiding home improvement scams includes:
- Never sign anything without reading and carefully considering it. Take the contractor’s/vendor’s information and tell them you’ll contact them once you’ve done some research. If they aren’t willing to leave information, it’s pretty much a guarantee they’re not legitimate.
- Always check out a potential contractor’s/vendor’s rating and complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s website.
- You can also check the BBB’s Scam Tracker site to see what scams are being run in your area.
- Yelp is also valuable tool to see reviews and complaints.
My best advice is this: seek referrals from trusted sources. I maintain a list of contractors/vendors that I have personally used and recommend. I can point you to great folks to handle basement finishing, carpentry, HVAC, mold removal, mudjacking, pest control, plumbing, sewer, sprinklers, tree care, windows, and more. Send me an email and I’ll happily send you the list.