ROCKFORD — As we ushered in a new season, spring scams are in the air. This is the season for home improvement tricks as well as the inevitable storm chasers. The Better Business Bureau says scammers are opening up shop with seasonal ploys to steal your money, identity, and confidence in the marketplace. And that’s before flowers even bloom.
“Con artists are inventive and bold,” says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “Spring gives scammers a range of new opportunities. With warmer weather, people are thrilled to be able to start more outdoor home improvement and repair projects, but you have to be careful to reduce your risk of scams.”
Home Improvement Scams climbed to #4 on BBB’s list of scams posing the most significant risk to consumers. BBB released the rankings last week in its annual BBB Scam Tracker Risk Report, with people losing more than $955 per incident.
“You could encounter a scammer via text or email; on the phone; online; or even in person. The losses can be devastating,” says Horton.
Drywall, paint jobs, plumbing, roofing, electric, HVAC service, and other home improvement projects all have scam potential. Shoddy storm damage repair is another lucrative con. Usually, warmer weather can usher in intense storms with high winds and heavy rains.
BBB provides the public, free-of-charge, the opportunity to check on business ratings and reviews before you hire. When you need work done, visit BBB.org to research prospective companies and find businesses you can trust.
• Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics, up-front fees, and handshake deals. Get a written contract with the price, materials, and timeline detailed. Illinois law requires a written contract for all projects costing $1,000 or more.
• Con artists often will attempt to convince you that you need immediate repair and that they can do the job right now. Typically, they quote low prices, but if hired, will find significant new problems that raise the price.
• Get multiple estimates in writing.
• Before you hire a professional, ask for references and check them out. Bad contractors will be reluctant to share this information, and scammers won’t wait for you to do your homework. Be sure to get references from past customers, both older references to check on the quality of the work and newer references to make sure current employees are up to the task. If possible, inspect the contractor’s work yourself.
• Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in full upfront. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it. Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card. Paying with a credit card will provide some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
• Know the law. Work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing, and insurance. Confirm that your vendor will get related permits and make sure you know who is responsible for what according to your local laws.
• Visit BBB.org to research companies and find businesses you can trust.
For more information
Sign up for BBB’s free consumer newsletter, BBB Edge, at BBB.org/ChicagoBuzz. If you have spotted a scam, whether or not you lost money, please report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report exposes scammer tactics and helps protect your community. Visit BBB.org or follow us @ChicagoBBB on social media.