Protect Yourself from Home Improvement Scams

contractor's belt full of tools

In a recent news release, the Ontario Provincial Police issued a stern warning about the persistence, persuasiveness, and sometimes aggressive tactics employed by fraudsters targeting homeowners. These scam artists prey on unsuspecting individuals, using various strategies to deceive and defraud them. To help you stay vigilant and protect yourself from falling victim to these home improvement scams, here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Verify Credentials: Before engaging with any contractor, it’s essential to verify their credentials. Legitimate contractors typically have an official online presence and are registered with local chambers of commerce, the Better Business Bureau, or similar reputable organizations. Be wary of individuals who lack these credentials, as they may not have the necessary qualifications or expertise. Ask for references and call to verify the work previously completed. Was it done on time? Was it done at or below the quoted price? What was the overall impression of the people and their work?
  2. Exercise Caution with Unexpected Visitors: Fraudsters often contact individuals directly at their homes or via telephone, employing persuasive tactics to convince homeowners of the necessity for a contract or service they neither requested nor require. Exercise caution when opening your door to unexpected visitors or solicitors offering items or services. Always ask for identification and verify the legitimacy of their claims before proceeding. In this age of social media, it’s a good idea to warn neighbours of unwanted solicitations taking place.
  3. Beware of Professionally Designed Flyers and Websites: Fraudsters often use professionally designed flyers and websites that have a legitimate appearance to lure in unsuspecting victims. Don’t be swayed by glossy marketing materials. Instead, conduct thorough research and verify the legitimacy of the company before entering into any agreements.
  4. Question “Leftover” Materials: Be cautious if a contractor shows up at your door claiming to have “leftover” materials from another job. Most reputable contractors will know how much material they need for a job and won’t have excess leftover. This could be a red flag indicating a potential scam.
  5. Demand a Written Contract: Always insist on having a written contract with a detailed quote upfront. If the price changes mid-job due to “unforeseen problems,” you may be at the mercy of the contractor. A written contract protects both parties and ensures that all terms and conditions are clearly defined and agreed upon.
  6. Avoid Cash Payments and “Today-Only” Deals: Fraudsters often target vulnerable populations such as the elderly and request cash payments for “today-only” deals. It’s a red flag when a payment is asked for upfront before the job is completed. Avoid making any payments until the work has been satisfactorily completed and you are fully satisfied with the results.
  7. If It Sounds Too Good to Be True, It Probably Is: Finally, trust your instincts. If an offer seems too good to be true, chances are it is a scam. Don’t let yourself be pressured into making hasty decisions, and always take the time to research and verify the legitimacy of any offers or claims.

By staying informed and vigilant, you can protect yourself from falling victim to home improvement scams. Remember to verify credentials, demand written contracts, and trust your instincts when dealing with contractors. Together, we can combat fraud and ensure the safety and security of our communities.