Saturday, October 17, 2009

Avoiding Contractor Fraud

Contractor fraud cases are quit common throughout the country and have been for many years. And now with the economy on a downturn and businesses laying off construction workers, its worse than ever. Each week, I alone receive 3-5 complaints from clients who state they were scammed by their contractor. The normal scam case consist of the contractor taking 1/2 up front to start the job, and then disappearing before job completion.Now there can be many reasons why a contractor cant or wont finish a job upon completion.

Here are some common reasons used by contractors:
  1. The contractor recognizes they underbid the job.
    The contractor will generally blame the customer for this, because the builder or contractor who worked previously on the area being worked on did a horrible job, and they have to fix it. Or they may state the customer changed the specification slightly to cause the cost to go way up. Underbidding is very common with more and more layed off contractors performing side jobs. There is a lot of competition now causing a lot of underbidding.
  2. The contractor is behind on jobs.
    Some contractors love to use this reason when their robbing Peter to pay Paul. There in financial trouble and they need to collect on jobs sold to pay for materials to complete existing jobs.
  3. The parts or materials needed are on back order.
    Similar to reason stated before, contractors may use this reason to stall while they collect on sold jobs to pay for backed up jobs. In any event, if the contractor is experienced and knowledgeable at their job, there going anticipate any type of delay caused by the scarcity of parts and materials. At time of sale, experienced contractors will probably factor these delays in on the job completion time.
  4. The contractor is a con artist.
    These contractors come in and extremely underbid a job. They generally will provide false names and business cards that have prepaid trac phone numbers on them. The normal method of sales performed by these contractors are done door to door (very common for driveway paving workers and roofers). They also love to follow storms by canvassing areas that were hit by them. They commonly like to tell people they would be willing to make an insurance fraud deal on repairs so both parties can pocket on overpaid claims. They will just about say anything to get the customer to pay some up front money so that they can disappear.

Here are some ways to avoid being a victim of contractor fraud:

  1. Always have a contract written up and have both parties sign it.
    This contract should always include job specifics, estimated cost, start date, & completion date. Please note that most states have instituted contractor laws. Some states now state that contractors now can be fined a substantial amount for working without a contract. The law may also include a percentage amount that the contractor cant go over listed on the cost estimate.
  2. Always check the contractor out before hiring.
    A good source for checking contractors is the Better Business Bureau (bbb.org). They have a brand new system that now rates companies from A to F. The system factors in years of business, complaints and disputes, dispute resolutions, customer service, etc. There are also companies that are accredited members of the BBB. These companies have an agreed standard contract with BBB that they must follow. BBB will get involved with accredited companies that do not follow the standards of being an accredited member. Thus customers are provided assurance that they will not be scammed by these accredited members.
  3. Find a company that accepts credit cards.
    Generally this may be best method of insuring that your dealing with a legitimate company. I wont say that all companies who do not accept credit cards are scam companies, however I will state that nearly all companies that do accept credit cards are legitimate businesses.In today's business, it is extremely easy for a businesses to accept credit cards. There is absolutely no reason why a business would not take credit cards, other than that they may not want to deal with charge disputes. To win a charge dispute, the customer must prove that they paid for a service that was not received. Now the credit card companies are generally not going to charge back charges because the customer is unhappy with the interpretation of the service. They generally just want to know simply whether the service paid for as stated on the contract was performed.

It can say a lot about a business who wont take credit cards, because the business is worried about the accountability of performing a service they charged for!

If you have been a victim of contractor fraud and you need help, or if you want to check out a contractor before hiring, please contact us.

Ken Burbridge
Licensed Detective - State of Indiana
President/Owner - Burbridge Detective Agency
Accredited Member - Better Business Bureau
Member - Nat. Assoc. Investigation Specialist
Burbridge Detective Agency,LLC
1457 E 84th PlaceMerrillville, IN 46410
Phone - 219-629-3260
Fax - 219-940-3926
Web - http://www.burbridgepi.com
Email: bda.investigation@burbridgepi.com
Detective License #: PI20700205

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