Warmer weather brings out unwanted and often fraudulent solicitations for a variety of products and services. Some are run by con artists who move from town to town and state to state, performing poor work, or simply collecting deposits and leaving behind a trail of unhappy consumers. Some of those solicitors include;
· Asphalt pavers - Some offer cut-rate paving services, claiming they have material left over from another job in the neighborhood. Their work and materials are often substandard and the quality of work is poor.
· Home improvement contractors - Many door to door contractors are unlicensed, uninsured and unqualified to do the work they offer.
· Heating, roofing and chimney contractors – They may make false claims that major repairs are necessary or that heating equipment needs replacement.
· Landscapers and cleanup crews – Scammers knock on doors and send out flyers at this time of year, offering yard maintenance and cleanup services. They may show up once or twice, or simply take a deposit and never return to do the work.
· Magazine sellers – Students are often unaware they are being duped into selling magazine subscriptions for disreputable operators. In many cases wrong magazines arrive or consumers are overcharged. In other situations, the magazine vendors’ boss is simply collecting credit card information for the purpose of committing fraud.
· Alarm systems – BBB’s across the country receive complaints about people selling alarm systems and failing to divulge terms of the contract for alarm system monitoring.
Your BBB offers six tips to get the work done properly, and protect against fraudulent operators.
1. Don’t make decisions at your front door. If your property requires maintenance or remodeling, your BBB recommends researching prospective contractors and sellers. Go to bbb.org, for a listing of BBB accredited businesses in this industry and to see what other consumers’ experiences have been like. Also, do not invite unsolicited salespeople into your home.
2. Ask for identification and information. If someone is selling door to door, request they provide you with proper identification, and proof that they have the proper licenses and permits required to sell according to the city, county and state. Ask them to leave you with materials to read about their products and services. Legitimate sellers and contractors will give you the time you need to research their reputation and reliability.
3. Watch out for high pressure sales tactics. Avoid sellers who encourage you to sign a contract or put down a deposit right away, claiming that will offer a special rate, but only if you act immediately.
4. Check all contractors’ credentials. Ask for a copy of their license and insurance certificate, or obtain the respective license or policy numbers and the name of the issuing agency. Then, if the contract is over $10,000 verify state license through the Alabama Homebuilders Licensing Board. Check with the contractor’s insurance carrier to verify that the policy is current and there is also an adequate amount of insurance for your job.
5. Get it all in writing. A contract should contain a description of the project, labor and materials to be used, a start and completion date and payment schedule. Make sure contracts contain any verbal promises in writing.
6. Remember your rights. The Federal Trade Commission’s “Cooling-Off Rule” gives you three days to cancel purchases over $25 made at your home or other location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business.