Falling leaves a signal to both homeowners and scam artists alike

By Dennis Horton
Director, Rockford Regional Office
Better Business Bureau

It’s fall, and many homeowners will begin preparing their homes for cooler weather by hiring specialists to clean and make repairs. But, you need to be cautious – scammers see this time as an opportunity to rip-off homeowners, and in some cases, steal thousands of dollars for unnecessary work.

These scammers are specific as to who they are looking for, they often target middle-class homeowners, and in particular senior citizens. They look professional, are polite, and drive nice vehicles, all to fool the homeowner into thinking that they are trustworthy.

Over the years their scams haven’t changed much, and they are deliberate in the way they carry them out. Typically, the scammer provides a verbal estimate to do the work for a very low price, but they later charge a much higher price, and the quality of the work is often shoddy.

When the con-artists get to the door they often offer these kind of jobs:

Chimney/roof repairs – Scammers disguised as chimney sweeps will tell you your chimney needs to be inspected, and then use hard sales tactics to get you to make expensive, unfounded repairs. Don’t fall for it.

Gutter cleaning – Fraudulent gutter cleaners tend to prey on the elderly or those who cannot clean their gutters easily. They will assure you that they’ve worked in the neighborhood before, and quote you a very low estimate in return for shoddy, incomplete work.

Energy audits – Many scammers offer a “free” energy audit to reduce heating costs, claiming to be a representative from your local utility company. They insist on costly upgrades for your attic, such as solar blankets or insulation, and may or may not burglarize your home while conducting the audit.

Ductwork cleaning – Ductwork cleaning is rarely a necessity, so take caution. Scammers are known to damage your heating system while cleaning it in order to leech more money out of you for repairs. They also may create indoor air hazards.

What are the clues you are dealing with a scammer?

  • They come to your door unexpectedly.
  • Without much inspection, quickly point out the problem they say needs repair.
  • Say they have leftover materials from a neighbor’s job or just finished a project there.
  • Offer unbelievably low prices.
  • Accept cash or check only.
  • Promise an unconditional guarantee on the work.
  • Start work immediately.
  • Work quickly, taking only 30 minutes to an hour to finish the job.

Before having work done by someone you don’t know, research the individual or company. There are also tips available on the BBB website that can guide you in making your decision.

Also you can find trustworthy businesses AT NO COST visit ask.bbb.org.

Dennis Horton is Director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.

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