This spring Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest advises residents to keep an eye out for home improvement scammers targeting people over the phone, online and even right at their front door.
In the past year, 50 percent of home improvement scams reported in the Northwest to BBB Scam Tracker were solicited over the phone via calling or text messaging. Many Northwest residents reported they received a call, usually from a furnace company, saying the homeowners have a contract with them and are due for a service call for an inspection or cleaning. Solicitation emails from companies that use the BBB logo, but are not BBB accredited businesses are another common scam reported.
BBB offers these tips before scheduling a maintenance inspection or hiring a contractor:
- Research the company. Gather as much information as possible about the business. Do they have a website and business card? Is the caller from the company they say they’re from? To double check, call the company using the phone number listed on their official website.
- Check if they are licensed, bonded and insured. Contractors must have an active license to work on certain types of jobs. Some states require a bond which makes sure the tradesperson follows the rules of their license. If a worker isn’t insured and gets hurt at the job, then the claim may be filed against the homeowner’s insurance.
- Be wary of arranging payments. Homeowners should never pay with cash, only by check or credit card. Businesses should not require large deposits, only accept cash, or as for the entire costs up front.
- Be sure to have a written contract. Have the contractor write up a contract listing all the details of the project including a start and completion date, payment schedule and information about the contractor including license number, address and phone number.
- Ask for references. Ask contractors for a list of completed recent projects. Or if they say they have done work close by, ask your neighbors. If possible, view the work and interview the site’s owner.
For more information about home improvement scams visit bbb.org/homescam.