Contractor fraud is a serious problem, especially after natural disasters. People who are less than honest come to those who are desperate for repairs on their homes or property. They tell them that they can complete the job and do it for a fair, and sometimes even unusually inexpensive, price.
Sadly, those people then turn around and never start the project, or they may take shortcuts and make repairs that barely hold up long enough to get paid. In the end, the homeowner loses money and the contractor walks away with a payment for poor or nonexistent work.
Who commits contractor fraud?
Contractor fraud is most common in residential real estate. It's usually carried out by smaller firms or individuals who promise upgrades or repairs that are below the current market rates.
On the whole, the work is substandard. It could even result in more damage to the building. The victim may be threatened and forced to pay, or they may pay up front and never see any work performed at all.
Why is contractor fraud so serious?
Contractor fraud can affect a number of individuals, as the contractor moves through an area and makes promises they don't intend to keep. The victim ends up paying twice as much as they expected (or more), because they often lose the initial payments to the fraudulent contractor and have to pay someone else to repair the shoddy work, if any was performed at all.
What can you do to avoid becoming a victim of contractor fraud?
As someone who may be approached by a contractor, make sure that you're doing all you can to verify their past work and identity. You can contact the Better Business Bureau and ask for proof of the contractor's licensing. You may want to ask others in your area whom they have worked with in the past and who they thought did a good job on the work on their property.
Before allowing any contractor to work on your property, you can check their licensing through the state. If the license number isn't present or can't be verified, then it's best to avoid working with them, since they may not be certified. You should also verify that the contractor has insurance and that they are covered if anything should happen to go wrong while they're working on your project. Make sure your contract is reviewed by your attorney before you agree to it.
Be smart about whom you hire, and take steps to verify their identities. It may take longer, but it's worth the time to make sure you won't be taken advantage of.