Monsoon Monsters Flood The Market With Scams
The monsoon season brings the fresh smell of creosote and mesquite, moisture in the air, cooler temperatures, and also something stinky -- scammers.
Scammers, also known as “travelers,” are pesky door-knocking salespeople who use high-pressure tactics to get homeowners to sign up for construction repairs or installations that aren't actually needed. Their go-to "jobs" are installing a new roof, repairing a damaged air conditioning unit, re-stuccoing and painting, or re-landscaping your yard, while offering low costs and possibly utilizing leftover materials.
These salespeople tend to appear after large, destructive storms and during the monsoon season. They are also notorious for collecting money and performing little to no work before disappearing -- with your money.
The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) continuously receives information and reports from victims about traveler activity throughout Arizona. Travelers and other unlicensed entities target and solicit work from residents and perform bogus or inferior construction services at inflated prices.
Travelers promise quality workmanship and a bogus written guarantee. They are con men who generally look for older people who live alone without anyone to talk them out of handing their money over to strangers.
The final result, if the “contractor” did any work at all, usually proves to be inferior construction services at an inflated cost to you.
It's What You Want To Hear
They will tell you anything you want to hear to get your money. Often the salespeople are not employed by the contractors. They are sales "consultants” who work on commission and can be very pushy. Here are some of their “pick-up” lines.
- “Your insurance company will reimburse you.”
- “I just did some work down the street for your neighbor (fake name), and I noticed your roof has the same problem.” For proof, he'll climb up onto your roof and come down with a report of leaks, broken tiles, and other damage plus, a photo of the damage —only it won’t be of your roof or HVAC!
- “It’s now or never if you want this extra-low pricing.”
- “We just finished a job down the street and have leftover material, which you can have real cheap.”
- “All you need to do is sign this contract, give me a deposit, and then I will notify the insurance company for your reimbursement. Give me your phone, I’ll do it right now!”
Once a homeowner signs a contract with one of these roaming salespeople, it will be very difficult to get out of it and get your money back. Some contracts don't list a dollar amount. “I’ll fill it in later,” he may say. A HUGE red flag!
Jeff Fleetham, director of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, says the State cannot stop people from going door-to-door to sell services. "But obviously, that's not the way to find a contractor. Never let someone in or on the house to fix something if you didn't contact them first. Check out the status of any contractor through the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. If they're not registered, don't hire them.”
Any project performed by a hired contractor and is more than $1,000 or requires a building permit must be conducted by a contractor licensed by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC).
Be Smarter Than The Scammer
Make it hard for a scammer to execute the scam. For a con artist to rip you off, you must play a part: write a check, sign a contract, let him into your house, say “yes.” Don't do it!
Press him to show you a contractor’s license, proof of insurance, and a photo ID. If he says they are in the truck, he forgot them, or his partner has them, tell him to get them and come back. In most cases, he will go away and not return.
If you can see it from a safe distance, write down his license plate number and ask why he doesn’t have a business name and his ROC number on the vehicle.
Matter-of-factly let him know that you’re going to call the police if he doesn’t get lost. He’ll go.
If at any time you feel threatened by a salesperson, shut and lock the door, and call the police.
When Damage Does Occur
Follow these recommendations regarding any transaction involving home repairs from storm damage:
1 | Call your insurance company first.
Find out what to do. Your agent may give you names of licensed contractors who will come out to look at the damage and provide estimates.
2 | Do not pay on the spot, especially with cash.
Don't pay anyone immediately, particularly those you did not call to fix the damage. Never make a hurried decision. Never pay in cash. Make checks payable only to the name of the company/contractor listed in your signed contract. Never write a check in the name of the salesperson who promises to talk to the insurance company.
3 | Use the proper process.
After opening a claim with the insurance company and getting damage estimates, the insurance company will send out an adjuster to decide what the insurance company will pay.
4 | Signs of a void contract.
If a dollar amount is not on a contract, DO NOT sign it! A contract is not valid without an amount or if only the dollar amount of your deductible is listed.
5 | You have three days to get out of a contract.
Don't sign a contract for repairs until you've read and thought it through. You have only three days to get out of a contract if you change your mind.
6 | Don't let scammers in your home.
Never let any previously unknown person into your house, especially if you did not initiate the visit. Tell them to leave a card under the doormat or in the door and look at it later. Always check out the name with the ROC before calling back.
"I always say this, and it continues to be true, says Fleetham. “Many people spend more time researching a cell phone plan than they do when researching a home repair or remodeling project. It's very important to do your due diligence up front about the project itself and who you are going to hire to get it done. Always check the license before hiring a contractor and make sure you get a detailed contract, not an invoice or a signed estimate, but a contract."
Visit ROC.AZ.gov to file a complaint about a suspected scammer, or a contractor who did not do the job as contracted. You can also review the list of the ROC’s Most Wanted.
An active monsoon means heavy storms that can damage your home. Unfortunately, this brings out scammers or 'travelers' with high pressure tactics who ask for money in advance but perform little to no work. Director of the Arizona Registrar Of Contractors (ROC) Jeff Fleetham joins the conversation on the importance of hiring licensed, bonded and insured contractors, what resources a customer has for projects gone bad and the best advice to save money and nightmares: patience.
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