As the home improvement industry continues to boom, so does the prevalence of home improvement scams. In 2024, it is more important than ever to be aware of these scams and take steps to protect yourself from becoming a victim.
Common Home Improvement Scams
As the home improvement industry continues to boom, so does the prevalence of home improvement scams. These scams can be costly and frustrating, so it’s important to be aware of them and take steps to protect yourself. Here are 10 common home improvement scams to watch out for:
1. Door-to-door scams
Unscrupulous contractors may knock on your door and offer unsolicited home improvement services at a discounted price. They may pressure you into signing a contract on the spot or refuse to provide you with a written estimate.
2. Fake contractors
Scammers may create fake websites or use misleading information to appear legitimate. They may also impersonate licensed contractors or steal the identities of reputable companies.
3. Overinflated estimates
Some contractors may inflate their estimates to take advantage of homeowners who are unfamiliar with the cost of home improvement projects. They may also add unnecessary repairs or upgrades to the project.
4. Substandard workmanship
Scammers may cut corners and use low-quality materials to complete home improvement projects. This can lead to serious problems in the future, such as structural damage or safety hazards.
Some contractors may accept payment for home improvement projects but never return to complete the work.
6. Deposit scams
Scammers may require high upfront deposits for home improvement projects. Once they have your money, they may disappear, leaving you with unfinished work.
7. Insurance scams
Scammers may try to sell you unnecessary or overpriced insurance for your home improvement project. They may also claim to be affiliated with your insurance company, when they are not.
8. Handshake deals
Avoid making any deals with a contractor that are not in writing. A handshake agreement is not legally binding.
9. Delayed or missing work
If a contractor is consistently delaying or missing work, it’s a red flag. This could be a sign that they are not committed to completing the project.
10. Unlicensed or uninsured contractors
Only hire licensed and insured contractors. This will give you some protection if the contractor fails to complete the work or if there are any problems with the work.
How to Protect Yourself from Home Improvement Scams
- Do your research: Before hiring a contractor, research them thoroughly. Check their online reviews, verify their licensing and insurance, and ask for references from previous clients.
- Get multiple estimates: Get quotes from at least three different contractors for the same project. This will help you compare prices and avoid being taken advantage of.
- Read contracts carefully: Before signing a contract, read it carefully and make sure you understand all the terms and conditions. Ask questions if you don’t understand something.
- Pay by check or credit card: Avoid paying for home improvement projects in cash. If you must pay by cash, make sure you get a receipt for your payment.
- Beware of high-pressure tactics: Do not feel pressured to sign a contract on the spot. If a contractor is pressuring you to make a decision quickly, it is a red flag.
- Report scams to the authorities: If you believe you have been the victim of a home improvement scam, report it to the appropriate authorities, such as your local consumer protection agency or the Better Business Bureau.
- Meet the contractor in person: Do not hire a contractor you have only communicated with online. Meet them in person to assess their professionalism and demeanor.
- Ask for proof of insurance: Require the contractor to provide proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance before hiring them.
- Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured: Check with your state or local licensing board to verify the contractor’s license and insurance status.
- Keep records: Keep copies of all contracts, estimates, receipts, and correspondence with the contractor.
Protecting yourself from home improvement scams requires diligence and careful planning. By following these tips, you can avoid becoming a victim and ensure that your home improvement projects are completed safely and professionally.
Where To Report Home Improvement Scams
There are several places to report home improvement scams. Here are a few options:
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC): The FTC is the nation’s consumer protection agency. You can file a complaint online at https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/consumer-sentinel-network or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
- Your state’s consumer protection agency: Each state has its own consumer protection agency. You can find the contact information for your state’s agency online or by calling your local Better Business Bureau.
- Your local Better Business Bureau (BBB): The BBB is a non-profit organization that provides information and resources to consumers. You can file a complaint online at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/reportscam or by calling your local BBB.
- The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB): The NAHB is the trade association for home builders. You can file a complaint online at https://www.homeadvisor.com/ or by calling 1-800-358-2113.
In addition to reporting scams to government agencies and organizations, you can also report them to the media. This can help to raise awareness of the problem and put pressure on the perpetrators.
Here are some tips for reporting home improvement scams:
- Be as specific as possible about the scam. This will help the authorities identify and apprehend the perpetrators.
- Include any documentation you have, such as contracts, receipts, and correspondence with the scammer.
- If you have been financially harmed, be sure to include the amount of money you lost.
- Contact the authorities as soon as possible. The sooner you file a complaint, the better chance there is of catching the scammers.
Here are some additional resources that may be helpful: