Door to Door Contractors - Warning Informative - When a contractor knocks at your door it's time to go on high alert
An old saying goes, "Don't believe everything you hear." Marge G., a sixty-year-old widow living alone in a small private home in the Atlanta area, should have heeded that advice.
She answered a knock on her front door one late fall afternoon. A man dressed in work clothes identified himself as a contractor building a new home in her neighborhood. On his way home after work he had noticed a major structural problem with Marge's detached garage and thought she should know about it.
Alarmed, Marge accompanied the contractor outside. He pointed to a corner of the garage and told Marge it was slowly sinking into the ground. The garage, he said, was in imminent danger of collapse.
Marge, alarmed, inspected the garage, but couldn’t see the fault. The contractor told her that was because she didn't have his trained eye. He informed Marge in an ominous tone that she was in violation of the building code.
Marge panicked. Like most people of her generation, the thought of breaking the law, however unintentionally, was abhorrent.
So, Marge gave the contractor the go ahead to repair the garage. Three days later the contractor finished the job and presented Marge with a bill for $2500.
Marge was unaware that the contractor had known she was a woman living alone, a big, fat juicy target for a scammer. And, of course, there was nothing wrong with the garage.
Legitimate Contractors Do Not Solicit Work Door to Door
When a contractor approaches you to repair anything on your home or property, especially for a problem you’re unaware of, it’s time to go on high alert. Chances are you're about to become the victim of a scam. This is one of the oldest tricks in the scammer’s handbook.
Instead of accepting the contractor's word, Marge should have asked other contractors to verify the claim of a sinking garage. She would have quickly discovered the scam.
She also made the mistake of not asking the contractor for a business card or letterhead displaying the name, address, and phone number of his business. If he had neither, she then should have asked for his phone number, address, and searched the local telephone directory to see if it existed.
She might have asked to see his business license. No license, no work. She also failed to do that.
Marge had the option to check the reputation of the contractor with the Better Business Bureau. A listing with that consumer organization provides would-be customers with a history of complaints. Reputable contractors are eager to assure customers of their reliability by exposing their record for all to see. Not being listed with the BBB is an indication that the contractor's work might be shoddy. It’s not a sure sign, but it is a signal to dig deeper and uncover his work record.
Marge might then have called the state Office of Consumer Affairs (404-818-6600. Statewide toll free: 866-351-0001) to ask if the contractor had any complaints filed against him.
And if Marge knew how to surf the Internet, she might have found complaints against the contractor simply by writing his name or the name of his business in a search engine like Google or Yahoo!, or looked up his name on a consumer website such as www.ripoff.com .
Finally, if Marge had realized she was being scammed she could have called either the local police department or the state's Elder Abuse Hotline at 404-657-0152, statewide toll free: 888-774-5250
Copyright Ron Smith, 2006
"Ron Smith is a retired executive who was almost scammed to the tune of fifty grand, which lead to his investigation of scams against seniors. His book SCAMBUSTERS, subtitled; MORE THAN SIXTY WAYS SENIORS GET SWINDLED AND HOW THEY CAN PREVENT IT, will be published by HarperCollins this November."