As National Home Improvement Month draws to a close at the end of May, law enforcement agencies around the country are urging Americans to educate themselves and their neighbors about home improvement scams targeting senior citizens. While the pre-pay home improvement scam has been vexing homeowners for decades, lately con men posing as contractors have been targeting older Americans in particular.
In Tennessee, the Johnson City Police Department issued a press release urging homeowners to watch out for people going door-to-door offering unsolicited paving, tree trimming, painting, roofing, and other home renovation services. Scammers often point out home or property damage and then ask senior citizens to pay up front for repair services. Then, the contractor con men run off with the money, according to the JCPD press release.
“The best tip we can offer property owners is to not pay for any work up front,” said JCPD officer Scotty Carrier. “Don’t feel pressured or intimidated. A legitimate contractor will understand if you would like to do some research or obtain other estimates.”
Police say the scam is well known to law enforcement agencies around the country. This month, an Indiana man plead guilty to eight counts of theft and home improvement fraud after stealing $18,000 from an 89-year-old woman suffering from dementia. Meanwhile, in Washington County, Pennsylvania, another scammer was arrested by an Elder Abuse Task Force for accepting money for labor and materials he never intended to provide.
Police in Washington County are on the lookout for similar scams in their area. They’re asking residents to report suspicious contractors who show up at their doors uninvited.
Contractors who design buildings and offer home improvement services say that homeowners should never hesitate to check credentials before hiring someone.
In many states, home remodelers and others who design buildings are required to obtain a license from state authorities. Other state laws also ensure certain rights to homeowners, like the ability to demand a written contract or cancel it within a certain period of time.
If you suspect that an aging relative or neighbor has fallen victim to a home improvement scam, then contact the police with information immediately.