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Don’t Be a Home Repair Fraud Victim

By: Natalie Morris, Contributing Writer
In: In the news, Necessary home improvements
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It’s a nightmare scenario that you wake up to find all too real. A contractor promises to complete necessary home repairs or improvements, takes your money, and leaves you high and dry with no repair and no recourse.

Being a victim of home repair fraud leaves you feeling vulnerable, angry, and violated–as if you were robbed. Which you were, just in more politely than a home invasion or ATM hold-up. In the past week, I’ve read a number of news reports about victims of home repair fraud who are helpless to get their money back.

No one thinks they will be the victim of fraud but no one is immune to the swindlers and contractor bad guys out there. Most of us want to believe the best of other people, but it’s important to be methodical about choosing a contractor to protect ourselves as best we can.

So, what steps should you take to protect yourself from home repair fraud? Here are just a few tips to get you thinking:

  1. Know what you want and don’t get talked into what you don’t need.
  2. Find your contractor through referrals from trusted friends and family members. Do not hire an unknown person who shows up at your front door to do work, no matter how polite and charming they are.
  3. Obtain more than one bid and make sure the prices reflect “apples to apples” work.
  4. Get detailed information from all bidding contractors including name, address, license number, insurance information, and then do some digging to check them out.
  5. Get it in writing. Insist on a contract—most legitimate contractors will want this for their own benefit, anyway.
  6. Don’t make a big down payment and don’t pay in full until you are completely satisfied with the work.
  7. Above all else, use your common sense and trust your gut. If something doesn’t seem right—even something small—it’s probably not.

For more detailed information and help in avoiding fraud, contact your state’s attorney general office or consumer protection office.

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