Never, never open your door to a contractor who randomly appears offering to fix some unseen problem. You would think it’s common sense, but a California senior ended up paying a shady contractor $20,000 to perform $300 worth of work, and it took a sting operation to stop a Long Island contractor who was going door-to-door offering to plug nonexistent carbon monoxide leaks. So how can you protect yourself? Here are a few warning signs to beware….
Steve in northern New York is having a problem with Time Warner. He would like it if they could install service at his mother’s newly constructed house. Time Warner not only doesn’t want to take her money, they can’t give her the best deal available because her house is too new.
If you live near Burke, Virginia, you might want to pay close attention when the contractor hired by Comcast comes to install your service. Rick runs a computer repair company and has twice run into the same problem with Comcast customers, where they can no longer access the Internet after an upgrade and are offered an off-the-books repair service.
Here’s an interesting little lawsuit from West Virginia. A customer is suing Lowe’s, claiming that installers contracted by the hardware giant drilled into his water lines. Not once. Not twice. Three times.
Here are three things you didn’t want to know: 1) The IRS doesn’t always conduct background checks on the employees contracted to handle your sensitive tax documents; 2) Those contracted employees regularly toss your sensitive tax documents into dumpsters without first shedding them; 3) The IRS doesn’t really know who’s in charge of conducting background checks on contracted employees, or who’s responsible for keeping your sensitive tax documents shredded and out of dumpsters. At least that’s what the Treasury Inspector General‘s office uncovered when it audited everyone’s favorite auditors.
Contractor scams are some of the most heartbreaking because of the potential for the scammer to obtain large amounts of money from the victim. About two weeks ago, the NY Attorney General’s office announced the arrest of a Western New York home improvement contractor for “repeatedly pressuring an 88-year-old widow into paying more than $80,000 for home improvements that were never done”, or were so poorly done as to be worthless.
Reader F.’s air conditioner was broken, so he called the company that installed it when the house was built. They came out, charged him $100, and told him that he could repair the unit for $3,000 or replace it for $5,000. It’s a good thing he got a second opinion, because the second repair guy fixed the problem for $250.
Contractor crime isn’t just for Comcast: Two men in Verizon Wireless longsleeves robbed a 64-year-old lady’s home at gunpoint, binding her and her live-in-aid’s hands and taking cash, jewelry, and electronics. [FairfaxCounty.gov]
William writes to tell us about an asinine DirecTV contractor who demanded a tip before starting work. The contractor was dispatched by Halstead Communications, DirecTV’s unfortunate installer of choice in New York. After being denied an entrance tip, the contractor noticed an easily movable table blocking his way and declared to his partner, “I can’t work like this, let’s get the fuck out of here.”
A Cleveland contractor found what amounted to a $2.7 million fortune in the walls of a house he was renovating. The homeowner offered him 10%, but he wants to keep it all, his lawyers enacting a centuries old “treasure trove” common law provision. Steel boxes contained rare 1929-series Cleveland Federal Reserve bank notes, worth about $85 each, $500 bills and a $1,000 bill. Tipster Zakarth quipped, “If the contractor had found a poison leak would he take ownership of that?” What do you think?
You might think you’re saving a buck by going with their advertised cheap services, but they’re bidding without insurance, worker’s compensation, or training. MSNBC’s new investigative series “Home Wreckers” tapes a police sting operation aimed at snatching up sketchy contractors. One of the guys is accused by several homeowners of low-balling bids, which then end shoot up in price over the course of the project. He also takes customer’s money and then never finishes the repairs. The police search his car and find ecstasy hidden in it. The police show off pictures of other contractors who were found to be convicted child molesters, on probation for attempted murder, registered sex offenders, on a state’s 10 most wanted list, and on Megan’s List. They advise to only hire licensed and bonded contractors, as they have to go through background checks and drug tests. You wouldn’t want to let some ex-con in your house, or around your kids.
How one blogger found a kitchen-remodel contractor he’s very happy with. [All Financial Matters]
Robert and his wife ordered a deck from Home Depot with the understanding that it would be installed around the middle of August. It turns out that Home Depot didn’t have necessary certification in order to build the deck. Home Depot is now requiring Robert and his wife wait until around Thanksgiving while their engineer does his paperwork.
I recently hired a plumber to do a rebuild on an existing small bathroom. During the demolition phase, the plumber remarked that he would be reclaiming the old copper pipe and that it was worth around $25.
Back in May Boston’s ABC 5 tracked down a convicted sex offender who was working as an unlicensed contractor for Home Depot. Not only was the guy a registered sex offender…he didn’t even refinish cabinets well.
Home Depot has been fined $750 by Westchester County, NY for operating without a license after one of their subcontractors allegedly gut the kitchen of a resident, dumped the debris on the customer’s driveway, then never showed up again.
According to a statement by the Connecticut Attorney General, 160 unregistered contractors were busted in a sting operation. Neat! From the statement:
When we say that we expect contractors to comply with the law we mean it,” Commissioner Farrell said in announcing the results of the sting operation, which was conducted with cooperation from the Ridgefield, Redding, Stratford, Fairfield, and Trumbull Police Departments, Trumbull building officials, and the Connecticut Department of Transportation. “Any person who wants to perform work in Connecticut must follow the State’s legal requirements associated with the job. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. We intend to pursue appropriate penalties and punishment for these contractors.”