The New York State Attorney General's office issued two timely and important warnings about scams that seem to pop up as the weather warms. In a two-part reprint of the NYSAG's release, BrokeAndBroker offers consumers information about Home Improvement Scams and Vacation Scams:
HOME IMPROVEMENT SCAMS
"I'm painting a house (or a barn or a garage) in the neighborhood. I am paving a driveway (or patching a roof) around the corner. I have material left over and can do yours for next to nothing."
Too often this kind of offer results in a watered down stain instead of paint, inferior shingles on half the roof, and a thin smear of blacktop on the driveway. These scammers typically demand a payment upfront and, if they actually finish the job, it probably won't last through the next rainstorm. Their guarantee? Good luck finding them.
"I was passing by and noticed you had some branches down…your trees really need a trim."
Frequently, the branches are down because the scammer broke them off. If hired, they do work on "unexpected problems" that run up exorbitant charges. Too often, the scammers threaten consumers if the extra charges are disputed, and sometimes follow the owners to the bank for cash payments.
Weatherproofing Scams: $15,000 Solutions to $150 Problems
"Free Basement Inspections!"
When a community has been hit by a series of rainstorms, you can bet the offers for "free basement inspections" will start rolling in. The answer? It's usually an expensive pump or excavating the foundation to waterproof, when the problem was really clogged gutters or a drain blocked by root growth.
"Free Chimney Inspections!"
Same thing. This money saving coupon will usually result in a recommendation for a new chimney or a "cleaning" that involves the sweep spreading soot around to make it look as though the work was done.
Tips To Protect Yourself
Be suspicious of any unsolicited offer to work on your home. Taking the time to do some research now could save you time and money in the long run.
· Checkout the contractor with the local Better Business Bureau.
· Get references, particularly about jobs completed a while back.
· Use local companies whose addresses you can verify.
· Get more than one written estimate that includes details about the materials to be used.
· Check with your town or city to see if permits are required. Don't let a contractor work without the necessary permits.
· Don't assume the lowest estimate is the best deal. Check the quality of the materials.
· Be clear that you won't pay for any work not included in the estimate, unless it's agreed upon in writing.
· Always be sure the contractor has valid insurance.
· Check with your local Department of Consumer Affairs to see if the contractor is licensed. Licenses are required in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland counties, as well as in the City of Buffalo.
· Always report a scam to local law enforcement and the Attorney General's Office.