Most of us have heard about scammers preying on the elderly, and yet, they manage to keep taking advantage of our aging seniors.
Kevin Day, co-owner of Foundation Repair Services, Inc., which operates in North Carolina and South Carolina, shares some tips to avoid being taken for a ride.
Thank you, Kevin, for contributing this useful post!
Home Improvement Scams to Target the Elderly
The North Carolina Department of Justice received 1,477 complaints about home construction and repair work in 2012. That’s up from 769 in 2009 – a 92% increase in just three years.
Most complaints are from homeowners who are dissatisfied with work done on their homes. Other complaints involve contractors who abandon the job after getting paid, miss deadlines, or go over budget.
The N.C. Attorney General’s office also investigates complaints of scam artists who target homeowners, especially seniors, fraudulently convincing them to pay for expensive and unnecessary repairs. Unfortunately, home improvement fraud is all too common.
The following two examples target elderly couples and persons in North Carolina:
— The Cary, North Carolina Police Department recently arrested Randall Lee Joyner of Rocky Mount and charged him with 19 counts each of obtaining property by false pretenses, exploiting an elderly or disabled person, and conspiracy. The charges stem from more than $89,000 in allegedly fraudulent home improvement work done for the 78 year old man and his 81 year old neighbors.
— Police in Hillsville, Virginia recently charged two North Carolina men with Grand Larceny by False Pretenses when two elderly women reported a home improvement scam. Two men visited the women’s home in June of this year and told the women their roof was in desperate need of repair. After allowing the men on the roof for twenty minutes, the men presented the women a bill for $3800. Several days later, the two men returned and offered to do more work. The women stalled the men with a promise of more work and pretending to call a friend, but called the local sheriff instead. John Ervin Ellis, Jr. of Statesville, N.C. and Glenn Dale Anderson of Troutman, N.C. were arrested for Grand Larceny by False Pretenses.
Cases like these are reported every year. The best defense against home improvement fraud is caution, skepticism, and doing your research.
Tips to Protect Yourself When Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor
The Attorney General’s office recommends these tips when dealing with builders and contractors:
Shop around for a contractor. Ask friends, neighbors, and co-workers who have done home improvement to recommend a trusted contractor. Avoid contractors who knock on your door or leave flyers in your mailbox.
Get at least three written estimates for the work you want done. Don’t get fooled be a low estimate; if the price seems too good to be true, that should be a red flag.
Check out the contractor before you hire. Check the license held by your contractor. Here are the phone numbers to verify the licenses of North Carolina contractors:
Electrician: (919) 733-9042
Plumber/HVAC Installer: (919) 875-3612
General Contractor: (919) 571-4183
You can also check the contractor’s complaint history with the Better Business Bureau or with the Attorney General’s office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
Get a written contract. The contract should outline in detail all the work to be done, including what materials will be used, the total price for labor and materials, and what warranties are offered. The contract should also specify start and finish dates and who is responsible for clean-up.
Ask to see the contractor’s insurance policy. Contact the insurance company to verify coverage.
Don’t pay large fees in advance. If a contractor claims to need money in advance for materials, it may be a sign he has poor credit. Be wary.
Follow the construction project closely. Bring problems to the attention of your contractor as soon as they happen. Consider hiring a home inspector to help identify problems during construction.
Have a Complaint About a Contractor? The NCDOJ Can Help
If you have a complaint about home construction or home improvement contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.