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Harsh Winter Over: Don't Get Fooled By Home Repair Scams

Consumer advocates warn that unscrupulous contractors are raking in billions from home-improvement scams, and after the harsh winter in Massachusetts, scams are surfacing. They say you can protect yourself with a few simple steps. Credit: Mike Clifford
Consumer advocates warn that unscrupulous contractors are raking in billions from home-improvement scams, and after the harsh winter in Massachusetts, scams are surfacing. They say you can protect yourself with a few simple steps. Credit: Mike Clifford
April 6, 2015

BOSTON - Homes all across New England had to weather a rough winter and many are in need of repair. That's why local consumer watchdogs are warning to beware of scam artists offering steep discounts.

Former FBI Agent Bob Denz says scam artists usually say they happened to be in the neighborhood and have a crew available right now. It's a simple operation that he says rakes in billions of dollars each year nationwide from unsuspecting consumers.

"Those billions of dollars are very attractive to con artists trying to sell you a repair job," says Denz. "They often work in pairs, and also the other thing the con artist needs is to rush you into this low-ball figure, but you have to tell me now."

He says the Better Business Bureau ranks this scam among the top ten that are currently preying on consumers in New England and the nation.

Denz is now a fraud fighter with AARP New Hampshire, and says seniors are at extra risk for this scam, because many can no longer do the repairs themselves.

"The usual pitch is, 'I noticed when I drove by, your driveway needs some urgent repair, or a chimney needs repair, or a roof or a window,' trying to kind of scare you into it," he says. "The second thing they'll say is, 'I can get you a great deal now because I have everything available.'"

Denz says there are plenty of reliable contractors in New England and says it only takes a couple of steps to increase the odds you will get a good one.

"Make sure they have a license, and make sure that they get a recommendation from a neighbor or friend that did some repair work and take your time, take your time," says Denz.

Learn more about scams and also sign-up for watchdog alerts on the AARP website www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA