It’s a story that’s all too familiar. A contractor or handyman knocks on the door of an elderly person’s home. They identify a serious issue with the home. The issue is usually something that’s difficult to inspect up-close, like roof issues, leaky gutters, or structural problems.
In a seemingly generous act, the handyman offers the elderly homeowner a steep discount. There’s just one catch – the homeowner has to take action today. Otherwise, the handyman will be too busy in the future and won’t be able to do the job at a discount.
The homeowner accepts the offer and gives the handyman a deposit to do the job. However, as the handyman starts work, he discovers more issues with the house – urgent issues that have to be fixed immediately. Of course, these new projects require more money, which means the homeowner writes more checks.
Eventually, the handyman stops showing up. The homeowner is left with a bunch of unfinished work and maybe even a partially assembled house. Even worse, he or she is out thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars.
Think it couldn’t happen to you or your elderly loved one? Think again. Last year, an Indianapolis man gave a group of handymen nearly $70,000 for work they never did. In recounting his story, he said he never thought he’d fall for a scam like that. He isn’t alone. In fact, thousands of elderly people every year fall for a wide range of home improvement, telemarketing, and financial scams.
The good news is that you or your elderly loved one can avoid these scams if you know what to look for. Here are a few tips on how to spot a home repair scam and how to stop them from happening.
How to spot a home repair scam
Watch out for unsolicited visits. Most reputable home repair companies are too busy with work to have their service people knocking on doors randomly. If a handyman knocks on your door and says that he can do the job right then and there, that’s a big red flag.
They don’t have uniforms or a branded vehicle. Also keep an eye out for handymen who are dressed in plain clothes or have a vehicle without any kind of branding or special marking. Our Jack’s Glass professionals always wear uniforms, come in branded vehicles, and have professional business cards. The same should be true of any home repair company you work with.
They don’t provide a formal written estimate. When we work with new customers, we expect that they will likely shop around and get other quotes. We provide a formal, written estimate so they can make an informed decision.
A scammer likely won’t want to provide you with anything in writing. Instead, they’ll pressure you to write a check as quickly as possible. If they’re not willing to provide you with a written quote, you shouldn’t move forward with the project.
They pressure you to act now. A scammer’s only goal is to get you to write a check as quickly as possible. They’ll use a number of methods to do that, but the most common is to offer a discounted rate. They may say that they just had a job cancel last minute and they’re offering a discount to make up for the loss. Or they could say they’re in the neighborhood and have free time, so they’ll give you a discount.
However, these “discounts” usually come with a catch. You have to commit and write a check immediately. Again, a reputable company will give you time to do your homework. Don’t fall for anyone who pressures you to act quickly.
Tips to avoid getting scammed
Get competing bids. The best way to prevent a scam is to check around. If the repair work needed is extensive, it may be wise to ask a few competitors to come out and offer their opinion and a quote for the work. They may find that you don’t need any work or that the issue is minor. If that conflicts with the handyman’s information, then you know you might be dealing with a scammer.
Ask for references. A scammer isn’t going to have references available. Or they may tell you that they have references, but by the time you check them, the discount will no longer be available. Always ask for references on a major home project.
You can also attempt to verify the company’s reputation online. Simply go to Google, type in the business’ name, and “reviews”. This will hopefully turn up reviews on a variety of sites including the BBB (Better Business Bureau).
Offer to buy the materials yourself. Many scammers will cite the need to purchase materials as their justification for the hefty deposit. They’ll say that they can start the work immediately, but they need you to write them a check for the materials.
Instead, offer to pay for the materials directly. Tell them to go to their supply store and pick out the materials they need. Then say you will visit the store directly to pay. Of course, that eliminates the possibility of you writing them a personal check. Most scammers will reject that idea.
Unfortunately, there will always be unethical people who want to take advantage of the elderly. You can protect yourself and your elderly loved ones by taking your time and doing your homework before handing over any money.
If you’re considering window upgrades or any glass work in your home or car, get an estimate from a reliable and reputable company like Jack’s Glass. We can help you decide whether the work is necessary and which options might be best for your budget. Contact us today at (859) 342-JACKS to schedule your appointment.