Home Improvement Scams

Consumer fraud refers to illegal transactions between merchants and consumers.  The fraud usually results in false claims, misrepresentation, over charging, failure to deliver goods or services or failure to return a deposit.

  • Popular home improvement schemes include roofing, driveway/asphalt repair and plumbing repairs. They offer free home inspections or surveys.
  • They may demand large down payments or deposits for home repairs and then disappear with the money.
  • They may distract the homeowner and then burglarize the home.
  • You may be quoted a low price for home repairs, which is then inflated dramatically after the work has begun.
  • Senior citizens may be tricked into signing home improvement loan contracts, using their homes as collateral.

Preventing Home Improvement Scams

  • Don’t let strangers inside your home for any reason.
  • Be skeptical of contractors who solicit business door-to-door.
  • Don’t rush into a home repair and don’t contract a job done immediately. Get several written estimates for a proposed repair job.
  • Check out the contractor’s license.  Michigan requires it even for resurfacing a driveway or patching a roof.  Call their references.
  • Get a detailed written contract and estimate on the work, completion date, materials used and cost. Pay as little money as possible up front.
  • Check work as it goes, insuring that replacements are really installed.

General Fraud Cautions

  • Never purchase property unseen.  Check the property and seller.
  • Avoid get-rich quick schemes.
  • Understand a contract before you sign it. Do not skip small print and never sign a blank contract or one with blanks to be filled in later.
  • Beware of firms offering a “free inspection” of your roof, porch, etc.  Do business with local well-known home improvement firms.
  • When making charitable contributions, know exactly where the money is going.  Write a check payable to the organization—never an individual.
  • Never give your credit card, Social Security or bank account number over the phone.  It’s illegal for telemarketers to ask for these numbers.

Source:  American Crime Prevention Institute