Out of more than two dozen scams tracked by the Better Business Bureau, home improvement scams are one of the most-popular cons visited on military members and their families.
While disturbing, it’s not surprising: Military families often aren’t settled in a community long enough to establish a reference network for contractors or know the local favorites. They may need to sell a home in a hurry, meaning less time to research potential contractors. They may be dealing with deployments, leading to even less time for ... well, for most everything.
Here are five reasons to pump the brakes on a renovation deal, courtesy of the BBB and other resources:
1. Just stopping by. It’s possible that the contractor who has reached out, unsolicited, either in person or via telephone really is “working on another house in your neighborhood.” But some scammers will use the line, or a fake discount associated with the line, to start a conversation that can lead to trouble.
2. Room for leftovers. Similar to No. 1, be wary of discounts being pitched because your potential contractor has paint, lumber or other materials left over from a previous job that just so happens to meet the needs of your repair or remodel.
3. Role reversal. If your contractor wants to set up a loan for you, think twice ― even if the loan is legit, you’ll have less influence over the contractor’s schedule if he’s already been paid by the lender. Similarly, the contractor should be familiar with local work permits, codes and other paperwork; it’s a bad sign if he asks you to do the legwork.
4. Do it now. Some deals will have an expiration date, and some offers may only be good for a limited time, but if a contractor insists on an immediate decision, there may be a reason why he doesn’t want you to think things over.
5. Disaster deals? So-called “storm chaser” scammers will pop up after major weather events leave multiple homes damaged. Watch out for contractors who appear from nowhere when disaster strikes, as they can disappear just as fast.