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5 Ways to Uncover a Home Improvement Scam

Spring is here and so is home improvement season. If you plan to hire a contractor to make improvements to your home, be alert! Here are 5 ways to spot a home improvement scam:

The contractor insists on being paid upfront.

While most contractors will ask for a deposit toward their final fee when you hire them, be wary of any contractor who demands you pay more than a third of the total cost up front. This is likely a scammer who is trying to cover their bases in case of shoddy work or even a no-show.

They refuse to provide references.

Scammers typically will not wait around for you to contact references; instead, they will move on to the next scam. Be sure to look up any potential contractors on the Better Business Bureau website. An online search could reveal poor reviews.

They” just happen” to be in the area.

Legitimate contractors do not go door-to-door drumming up business since they are typically too busy to do so. However, one of the most common ways scammers make contact with their victims is by simply knocking on their door, explaining that they were in the neighborhood and offering to take care of a job they noticed a need for.

They demand to be paid in cash.

The FTC recommends paying contractors with a check or credit card so you can contest the charges if something goes wrong. Cash does not leave a trail and makes it easy for a scammer to walk away from a job without doing much (or any) work at all.

It seems to good to be true.

If the price of the job seems to good to be true, it probably is. Granted, you might get lucky and find someone who is just starting out and can still do great work, or you might be dealing with someone who will cut every corner and end up costing you more than you thought you were saving. If you are offered a bid that is a lot lower than the going price for the work, ask a lot of questions. If it seems as though they are trying to avoid answering your questions, look elsewhere.

The moral of the story? Do your homework well before hiring any contractors. It’ a surefire way to ensure your home improvement project goes smoothly and without unpleasant surprises.