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BBB Scam Alert: Home Improvement Scammers Take Money, Don’t Complete Work

Use caution when hiring a home improvement contractor especially following a major storm, flood, or other weather event when many homeowners are trying to repair their homes. However, contractor scams can happen any time, so be wary of high-pressure sales tactics, upfront fees, and fly-by-night businesses. Con artists will take homeowners’ money and deliver (or not deliver) less than quality work. 

Within the last year BBB Serving Central Indiana has received numerous Scam Tracker reports from consumers losing more than $10,000 to home improvement scams. One Noblesville consumer reported losing $1,225 last month after an independent contractor began a project then disappeared.  

How the scam works: 

Home improvement scams can start with a knock on the door, a flyer or an ad. The contractor may offer a low price or a short timeframe. One common hook is when the scammer claims to be working in your neighborhood on another project and has leftover supplies. 

Once started, a rogue contractor may “find” issues that significantly raise the price. If you object, they threaten to walk away and leave a half-finished project. Or, they may accept your upfront deposit and then never return to do the job. Following a natural disaster, scammers persuade homeowners to sign over their insurance payment. 

Tips to Spot This Scam: 

Watch out for “red flags.” Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, handshake deals without a contract, and on-site inspections. Not all “storm chasers”are con artists, but enough are that you should be cautious any time a home contractor contacts you first…especially after a natural disaster.

Ask for references and check them out.Bad contractors will be reluctant to share this information and scammers won’t wait for you to do your homework. If you can, get references from past customers, both older references to check on the quality of the work and newer references to make sure current employees are up to the task. Check them out atbbb.orgto see what other customers have experienced. And always be sure to get a written contract with the price, materials and timeline. The more detail, the better.

Know the law.Work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing and insurance. Confirm that your vendor will get related permits and make sure you know who is responsible for what according to your local laws and that your vendor is ready to comply.

To report a scam, go toBBB Scam Tracker. 

To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams.”

Go toBBB.orgto look up business profiles, file a complaint, or write a customer review.  VisitBBB Scam Trackerto research and report scams. 

ABOUT BBB SERVING CENTRAL INDIANA: The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2021, people turned to BBB more than 200 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 25,000 charities, free at BBB.org. Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Indiana, which was founded in 1916 and serves 46 counties.