Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or you’ve owned property for decades, you aren’t immune to home improvement scams. In fact, these cons appear to be on the rise, which means you should be more vigilant than ever. Take a look at some of the most common home improvement scams, learn how to spot them from a mile away, and know how to avoid these cons.
Beware of Online Coupons
If you’re a frequent online shopper, you probably keep an eye out for coupons and promotional codes before making any major purchase. However, not all coupons are as good as they seem, especially when it comes to home improvement. In fact, some coupons that circulate through social media sites can actually steal your information.
When you click on a home improvement store coupon, check to be sure that the link is actually part of the retailer’s official website. If the coupon sends you to an unrelated website, that’s a good sign that the coupon is fake. If the website requires personal information, such as your email address or home address, click away. It’s most likely a scam designed to take your personal data in return for nothing.
Do a Reverse Phone Number Lookup
Scams don’t only happen online. Many people fall victim to scams over the phone, since identifying a con isn’t easy when you don’t know who’s calling. If you receive a call or a text from a number you’re not familiar with, you might not know if you can trust the person on the other end of the line. In just a few minutes, a savvy scammer might be able to win your trust and sell you home improvement services you don’t need or that won’t be delivered.
Rather than picking up the phone or responding to a text right away, make sure you know who’s calling. Google the number to see if it matches up with a local business or a contractor who provides high-quality home improvement services. Since most businesses and legitimate contractors publish their phone numbers in online directories or feature them on company websites, you can track down legitimate numbers quickly.
If your online search doesn’t turn up any clear information, use CheckThem to do a reverse phone number lookup. This tool draws on databases and information that search engines don’t use, and it even features cellphone numbers, Google Voice numbers, and other phone numbers that don’t appear in standard directories.
Once you find out who has the number that you often get calls or texts from, try doing a little more detective work to find out who the person is. It could be a legitimate contractor returning your call, or it could be a scammer. An online people search will reveal social profiles, address and employment history, and other personal information that can help you decide whether you should answer the phone.
Avoid Hiring Door-to-Door Contractors
Each season brings its own set of severe storms and other natural disasters. If your home sustains damage to the roof, siding, or foundation after such a storm, you might be worried about the cost of repairs. Illegitimate contractors know how to take advantage of this concern, which is why you’ll often see suspicious-looking salespeople going door to door after a major storm. Many of these contractors specialize in performing subpar services with low-quality materials.
Remember that legitimate businesses almost never attempt to drum up business by going door to door, so it’s safe to assume that anyone who knocks on your door is trying to scam you. Don’t let the person into your home to sell services, and don’t agree to anything. If you think the contractor might be genuine, take a business card and consider contacting the contractor after you’ve had time to weigh your options.
Practice Due Diligence
Whether you’re getting home improvement offers over the phone, online, in the mail, or in person, you should never accept an offer that seems too good to be true. Even if the salesperson seems trustworthy or the coupon is just what you want, perform due diligence before committing to anything.
The Better Business Bureau recommends researching the company or contractor as much as possible before agreeing to anything. First, look up the company online. Does the business phone number match the number that called you? Does the contractor who called you appear on the company’s “about us” page?
If everything seems to line up, find out more about the company itself. How long has the contractor been in business? If it’s a brand-new company, that could be a red flag. Is the company licensed to do the type of home improvement you need? Call your local building inspector to find out whether contractors in your area need a special license to do the work in question.
Finally, inquire about insurance or bonds. Is the company bonded, and does it have adequate insurance for the job? If you’re seriously considering hiring the contractor, get the insurance policy number and confirm coverage with the insurance provider.
Get Everything in Writing
If you’re concerned about a scam, a verbal contract isn’t enough. Instead, get everything in writing, including a contract. Read the contract carefully to make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to, including the scope of the work, the timeline, the deposit, and the total cost. Don’t allow a contractor to pressure you into signing anything if you aren’t comfortable with the situation.
When it comes to payments, be sure to keep a paper trail. Avoid paying in cash if possible, since tracing or recovering cash can be very difficult. Instead, pay with a credit card, since you’ll have a record of the payment and recourse in case something goes awry. Be sure to keep copies of receipts and contractor payments for your own records and so that you have documentation of each step.
With scams just about everywhere you look, it should come as no surprise that consumer trust is at an all-time low. Keep these steps in mind to identify fake offers quickly and protect yourself from home improvement scams that could cost you in a big way.