Along with spring crocuses come fraudsters posing as handymen ready to swindle unsuspecting homeowners.
Oftentimes, these scammers start with a phone call, according to the Better Business Bureau in Northwest Washington, which reported this month that half of the frauds in the past 12 months were solicited via a call or text message.
“Many residents reported they received a call, usually from a furnace company, saying the homeowners have a contract with them and are due for a service call for an inspection or cleaning,” the BBB said in a press release warning consumers. Fraudsters also use solicitation emails with an unauthorized BBB logo to mislead homeowners.
Here are five ways to distinguish an honest handyman from a conniving contractor:
1. He solicits you. You get an unsolicited email, text or phone call from a company that says you have a contract with them. Before agreeing to any service, check to make sure you have business with the company, research to see if it’s a legit company and call back at the number posted on its website. Also be wary of contractors knocking on your door and offering a deal because he’s working in the neighborhood.
2. He wants to shake on it—now. Don’t take a contractor’s word for it; ask for a contract. It should list all the details of the project such as start and finish dates, payment schedule, the contractor’s license number, address and phone number. It’s also important to get a copy of his insurance information and any warranties for his work. Decline any special offers that require you to act immediately without any paperwork.
3. He wants a lot of cash—upfront. Never pay with cash. Only make payments by check or credit card, so you have a paper trail and a way to stop payment if necessary. Contractors also should not require large deposits or ask for money upfront.
4. He lacks professional credentials. Only do business with contractors who are licensed, bonded and insured. Be careful if he can’t offer any references from recent projects. Always call those references and ask to see the completed project if possible. Double check his business addresses, phone number and website and look for relevant information at the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List.
5. He uses scare tactics. Walk away from any tradesman—especially one who unexpectedly calls you or shows up at your door—who claims you’re in danger unless he makes immediate repairs. Instead, call the police to report your concerns.