Carmen Santora
BCB Executive Director

Home Improvement time is here and so are the fly-by-night, scam artist contractors. Each year many of the so-called gypsy contractors hit town with one thing in mind and that is to rip off unsuspecting consumers, especially seniors.

Home repairs are at the top of their list, as they are the easiest to con people into doing by using many different scare tactics. The tips below may help you to protect yourself against these unscrupulous individuals.

  • Steer clear of drive-by repairmen. The most notorious scam artists in home repair frauds are those repairman who cruise neighborhoods and sell their services at your front door. When that happens the first thing you should do is to check to see if they are driving a vehicle with out of state license plates. If they are then you can be sure you are talking to a fly-by-night operator. The license plate check is especially important to prevent the most common ploy: an offer to seal coat your driveway or clean your gutters at bargain prices. "Some scammers even use useless motor oil to recoat driveways," says Santora.

  • Watch out for bogus chimney improvements. Scammers may tell you that your fireplace is unsafe and needs a new liner. But unless you have visible problems such as cracks or loose or missing bricks, they're probably pulling a scam, says Santora. "They'll come to your house and offer a $50 cleaning, look down your chimney, and say you need $3,000 to $4,000 in repair work for the fireplace to work safely." The work they do is usually unnecessary, and it's your money that goes up in smoke. Before agreeing to an expensive repair, hire an independent home inspector or a professional chimney sweep to do an evaluation.

  • Avoid the waterproofing scare tactics. If your basement floods every time it rains, you may need to have it waterproofed. But consider this very expensive job only after you've ruled out cheaper options. Frequently, gutters are simply clogged or soil surrounding the home has eroded so it slopes toward your home, causing water to seep in. "Anytime someone tries to scare or panic you, that should raise a red flag," Santora says. Things like damp proofing paints and sealants can help with minor problems, as well as extending gutter downspouts out. Sump Pumps can sometimes be installed without ripping up the entire basement perimeter! However, should you need major work, make sure you deal with a company who specializes in this type of repair.

Before you agree to anything, check with the Better Contractors Bureau to
see if you are dealing with a reputable contractor from the immediate area !!!