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Avoiding Home Improvement Fraud

Avoiding Home Improvement Fraud - The Beacon


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By: Tom

Avoiding Home Improvement Fraud

Unfortunately there are those who will take advantage of people, especially the elderly and those who are very trusting.  Home improvement fraud is an issue for these individuals. There are numerous ways that these unscrupulous contractors work to gain your trust.  They look for signs that a person is elderly or religious, for example, in order to gain entry into a home to work their charm and get the homeowner to give them a check.  It is often for the entire cost of the job to be done, but some will take a significant amount, do some work, but never return.

Your BBB wants you to be aware of some ways you can protect yourself:

1. Consider how the outside of your home is decorated. Home improvement fraudsters look for signs that the home is inhabited by an elderly person. Some telltale signs might be the display of religious items in the windows or porch.  Of course, wheelchair ramps and handrails might be necessities, but just be aware that this might allow a fraudster to profile the home’s inhabitants.

2.  Never give 100% of the money for the cost of a project.

3.  Make sure you get a written contract with all portions completed, especially start and end dates for the job.

4. In the contract, make sure materials are listed in detail. This should include the quality and cost.  Labor costs should also be included as a part of the total.

5.  Check that your contractor is properly licensed, and contact the county building commission to verify.  Home improvement contractors are required to be licensed in Vanderburgh County, and other counties have indicated that they will also require licensing in the near future.

6.  Never give cash. Use a check or credit card instead.

7.  Be aware of the Federal Trade Commission’s rule that gives consumers three business days to cancel a contract (over $25.00) signed at a private residence, motel or other temporary location. This “cooling off period” applies to cash and credit transactions. The seller is REQUIRED to provide the buyer “notice of cancellation” papers at the time of the transaction. Note: the first day is the day you sign the contract. In Indiana Saturday is considered a business day.

8.  Get references and check them out! Some unscrupulous contractors may use the names and addresses of past victims assuming you won’t take the time to contact them.

9. Get several bids and don’t allow a contractor to pressure you into making a quick decision.

10.  Finally, contact your BBB to get a report on the business or contractor. It is important to do this before you hand over any money.  You can access free reports on our website or call us at 812-473-0202.


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Tom is Vice President for the Tri-State Better Business Bureau. In addition to answering the needs of our accredited businesses, Tom can be seen on WEVV providing tips for businesses and consumers. He also works closely with other local media outlets to keep our community informed of marketplace issues affecting our area.