How to Avoid a Contractor Scam

Disasters can arrive in all forms: hurricanes, floods, wildfires, tornadoes, earthquakes, and just about any other misfortune you can dream up. But there’s no disaster as horrible as being ripped off by an unscrupulous crook posing as a legitimate contractor who makes off with your money. Believe it or not, contractor scams happen all the time. To ensure you never fall victim to them, here are a few best practices to employ after you’ve experienced damage to your home.

  • Be wary of the door-to-door contractor scam. Following a disaster, you might find yourself getting a lot of visitors. Many will be legitimate contractors offering you their services, but some may not.
  • Call your insurance company immediately after the damage is done. They’ll provide you with a list of certified contractors qualified to perform repairs.
  • Shop around by getting several estimates and never go with the first contractor you speak to.
  • Ask for references and always follow through.
  • Get operator license numbers and check them out to ensure their validity.
  • Avoid anyone who isn’t able to put everything down in black and white, and never sign terms that are vague or that have blank areas that can later be added to without your knowledge.
  • Never pay in full before the work is completed. It’s common practice for a contractor to ask for a down payment, however it’s not kosher for them to ask for everything up front.
  • Report contractor fraud to your insurance company if you think someone is trying to take advantage of you.

The Hallmark of Contractor Scams

Not all roofing contractor scams are created equal, just as no criminal’s M.O. is a carbon copy of the next one’s. Contractor scams can take a variety of different shapes. These are just a few of the most common.

  • A person representing themselves as a contractor may ask for you to pay up front, or put a substantial down payment on repair work prior to its start, then vanish without a trace.
  • Some may actually start the job just long enough to be able to collect your money before hightailing it.
  • Yet other common roofing contractor scams involve actually completing a job, but using cheap materials and poor workmanship that you’ll end up having to have re-done by a qualified contractor.

Keeping It On the Up and Up

Some crooks operate in different ways. Occasionally, you’ll have the misfortune to cross paths with someone who’ll offer to work with you to get the better of your insurance provider by lying on the insurance claim—their argument being that you’ll both make out like bandits. But unless you want to find out what disasters of the legal kind lie in wait for you if you cross that line, report them to your insurer immediately.