Beware of scammers in the area

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Now that spring has arrived, homeowners are reminded by the Indiana State Police to be aware of home improvement scammers.

There have been recent reports of home improvement scammers working in southeastern Indiana. One such scam involves men offering to paint barns and grain bins and another recent report has men offering to do blacktopping jobs.

Homeowners should be suspicious of individuals soliciting to do home improvement work. Many times the scammer will approach a home and tell the owner they have recently completed a job nearby and have extra materials left over and can do a job for a very low price because the intended victim will not have to pay for materials.

In the case of the blacktop scammers, they tell the intended victim they just completed a blacktopping job and have some blacktop left over and can blacktop a driveway at a very low cost. While the price may be very reasonable, the quality of work and quality of materials is very poor and may result in a homeowner having to have it re-done at a much higher price.

These scammers often target senior citizens who are sometimes physically unable to do general home maintenance jobs themselves. Often on a fixed income, seniors seize the opportunity for a "good deal" to save money and are preferred targets of scammers because they are more easily intimidated and tend to be more trusting. Home improvement scammers will also target victims whose homes have been damaged by weather related incidents.

The Indiana State Police offer the following tips to help protect against home improvement scams:

* Be suspicious of anyone who approaches you at home offering to do a home improvement job.

* Ask the person for local references.

* Get estimates from several different contractors before having work done.

* Don't be pressured into signing a contract or agreeing to have the work done. Senior citizens should consult with family members before signing any home improvement contract.

* Make sure you have a written contract. Indiana law requires any home improvement contracts exceeding $150 must be in writing.

Before signing any contract, make sure it includes:

* The price of the job.

* Payment schedule.

* A detailed description of the work to be done and materials.

* Estimated start and completion dates.

* The contractor's name and address.

* A name and phone number of the person to contact if problems arise.

* The contractor's signature

For more information on home improvement scams, visit the Indiana Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division Web site at or contact the Attorney General's office at (800) 382-5516.

If you think you have been a victim of a home improvement scam or if you are approached by a suspicious person offering to do a home improvement job, contact the Indiana State Police at (800) 225-8576.

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