Fake contractor scams on the rise

How to protect yourself from home improvement scammers

Fake contractor scams on the rise

From painting to remodeling: If you’ve tried to get a quote recently to have work done to your home, chances are you have discovered that contractors are busy and in high demand.

Unfortunately, the busy season is a perfect opportunity for scam artists to swoop in and con you.

“More and more people are needing things done to their home or wanting to spruce up their home, so, these are in high demand. And while many of the contractors that you come across are reputable businesses, there are some scammers that are out there,” said Laura Blankenship, director of marketing for the Better Business Bureau of Detroit and eastern Michigan. “It typically does get worse in the summer.”

Related: Crazy construction costs impacting US homebuyers, builders

Blankenship said a huge red flag is a price quote that is just too good to be true.

“Some people may be looking for a great deal, and that’s what scammers offer,” Blankenship said. “They offer a great deal, they offer to do the work right away and they get cash up front -- and those are huge red flags because a lot of the time, whenever the homeowner pays the money, especially if it’s something that happened door-to-door, they never see the person again or they only get a portion of the work done.”

There are legitimate businesses that do solicit their services by going door-to-door -- but the BBB says to do your research before hiring anyone to do work for your home.

“High pressure sales tactics is another thing that we see. Door-to-door salesmen use it. It doesn’t mean that they’re scammers, it doesn’t mean that’s not legitimate, but sometimes there are either hidden costs or contracts that you don’t see right away,” Blankenship said. “Often they’ll say ‘this deal is only good for today,’ or, ‘I’m not going to be back to the area tomorrow,’ and it kind of guilts you into wanting to sign. So you have to be very careful and, if this deal is so great that you can’t get it another time, then that’s a huge red flag.”

The BBB encourages people to do the following when hiring someone:

  • Ask for references and actually call them
  • Shop around, get at least three quotes from different companies
  • Get the estimates in writing
  • Always have a signed contract before the work starts
  • Verify license and insurance

“If you think that you’re being scammed, once again, do research, look up the company, save the legitimate reviews or complaints,” Blankenship said. “If you can’t find any information about the company, then it probably is a scam and you should report it.”

You can report scams to the BBB online right here.

The Better Business Bureau says there are additional factors to consider when hiring specialized contractors like roofers, plumbers and heating and cooling. Click here to learn more from the BBB about hiring a reliable and trustworthy contractor.

The BBB is partnering with media company Hire It Done to host a webinar on the ins and outs of home improvement from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 16. The webinar will touch on the dos and don’ts of hiring a contractor, potential scams and more. Click here to register for the webinar.


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About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.