From 11 Division: Watch out for scam contractors

A community alert from 11 Division:

Seniors Avoid “Scam” Contractors

There has been a report of a possible fraud artist working in the area bounded by Jane Street in the west, Runnymede Road in the east, Bloor Street West in the south and Dundas Street West in the north. The fraudulent scam involves home renovations and repairs. The male suspect is described as white, late 30’s to 40 years of age, average height, slim build, dark wavy hair possibly using the name Frank.

Every year, home repair fraud costs homeowners money and causes them considerable aggravation and stress. A disproportionate number of those who fall victim to home repair fraud are seniors. Scam home repair contractors tend to target senior citizens, taking advantage of their willingness to trust a stranger who sounds sincere.

Police services across the country report that frauds involving home repair generally follow a set pattern.

• A person claiming to represent a home repair contractor will appear at your door. This person can be very friendly and appear knowledgeable and will explain that they are working in the area and noticed that some part of your home needs repair or replacement. Worn-out roof shingles, faulty brick and chimney mortar and driveway cracking are common “problems” they offer to fix.

• You will be offered a “special discount price” or a “senior’s discount” because the company is in the neighbourhood already or has some left-over materials fr om another job. However, in order to get this special price, you will have to act fast. You’ll be pressured to agree or to sign a contract on the spot. Once you agree, you may be asked to make a down payment towards the cost of the work.

What happens next can take a number of turns.

A lot of times, fraudulent “contractors” want a deposit before the work begins. In many cases, people who hand over a substantial deposit find that the “contractor” simply disappears. By the time the police hear about the problem, the contractor is long gone.

In other cases, work is done but the homeowners are significantly overcharged. A scam contractor’s special discount price usually turns out to be much higher than the normal market price. And in many cases, the repairs or renovations are not even needed.

Homeowners are advised to avoid contractors who:

• Knock on the door and tell you they just happen to be doing work in the neighbourhood and can give you a “special price”. Most problems relating to home repair fraud involve contractors who solicit business door-to-door.

• Promise a discount if you allow them to use your home “to advertise our work”. They have probably made the same offer to everyone.

• Offer “lifetime” warranties.

• Quote a price without seeing the job or conduct a “free inspection” of your home and then suggest you need major repairs.

• Demand a large down payment “to buy materials”.

• Refuse to give you a written contract outlining what they will do, or object to you getting ot her estimates.

• Only have a post office box for an address and a telephone answering service.

It is extremely important to check out contractors carefully before agreeing to anything, and then insist on a detailed written contract that ensures the contractor is operating their business properly.

Anyone looking for more information about home repair fraud should contact their local police services. (11 Division 416-808-1100/Crime Prevention 416-808-1108)

For more information on how seniors can avoid consumer fraud, visit these websites:

Ontario Ministry of Business and Consumer Services: Consumer Lookout

Canadian Home Builders Association website – Get it in writing campaign

Please report any suspicious events or individuals to the police at 416-808-2222 or Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS.