Spring is just around the corner and so are con artists who prey on homeowners, especially senior citizens. These con artists show up at your door offering a variety of products and services from household products to magazines, from tree trimming to roof repair. Some may offer to pave your driveway with leftover materials from a previous job, cut your grass, or remodel your home for a very low price. Oftentimes, these fly-by-night operators may drive vehicles with out-of-state license plates, or set up temporary offices from which they can move quickly once authorities start looking for them.
Before you pay anyone who uses this type of approach, and especially before you allow any unknown individual into your home, the Better Business Bureau suggests that you do the following:
- Obtain the name and address of the company the person allegedly represents. If the person does not represent a known business and the circumstances suggest an itinerant contractor or sales representative, ask for references and contact each one.
- Get all details of the offer in writing and carefully review it. Make sure you understand everything in the contract. Any verbal promises should be included in the contract.
- Make sure the salesperson has provided you with the proper "notice of cancellation" form as required under the FTC's "Three Day Cooling Off Rule" for contracts signed in the home.
- Verify that the contractor is properly licensed, bonded and insured.
- Determine how long the company has been in business and call your Better Business Bureau for the company’s Business Review.
- If you've checked references and the company's reputation and decide to hire the company, either use a credit card or make the check payable to the company and not to the salesperson or any other individual's name. Do not pay in cash.
Remember, any legitimate company that wants your business will be more than willing to allow you the time to "check them out." Don't fall prey to high pressure tactics such as "this is the only chance you have" or "by tomorrow the extra materials will be gone." If you have an expensive repair, be especially cautious of these offers. Obtain bids from several companies. Don't always go for the lowest bid - in many cases, you will get exactly what you pay for.
For more tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia & the CSRA, Inc. serving 41 counties in Central Georgia and the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA). This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at Phone: 1-800-763-4222, Web site: www.bbb.org or E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org