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Beware of Contractor Scams

Watch for these warning signs

With more folks working from home, more people are hiring contractors to complete house repairs. If you’re improving your space and need some help, be diligent about checking out the people you allow onto your property.

Here are some telltale signs that a contractor isn’t legit:

The contractor quotes you a price that’s so low it seems like a steal. Be aware that the pandemic has caused a shortage of building materials, so home improvement jobs are likely to cost more—not less—than they did a couple of years ago.

The contractor says you don’t need to sign a contract. That means that he doesn’t have to sign one, either. Insist on a written estimate and a written guarantee that you will not be surprised by unapproved charges.

The contractor insists on payment upfront. If you pay in full before the work has even begun, you probably will never see that contractor again. It’s customary and reasonable for the contractor to ask you for a deposit on the work, but it shouldn’t be any more than one-quarter of the estimate.

The contractor accepts only cash or offers you a deep discount if you pay with cash. That contractor probably is not paying taxes and likely does not have insurance. Equally suspicious is a contractor who demands daily payments. That is an invitation to an unfinished job.

The contractor doesn’t seem professional. For example, if the company name is not painted on the contractor’s truck or if the business lacks a website, the person might not really have a business. Real contractors typically have their license number visible on their truck.

If the contractor quotes you an informal estimate without taking measurements or calculating the cost of materials and labor, they’re probably not legit.