How can I avoid home improvement scams?
Groveport Chief of Police, Ralph J. Portier, with information from the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police,and the Ohio Attorney Generals Consumer Protection Section, offers these tips to help identify a less than reputable contractor.

The Contractor:

- Solicits door to door: Some reputable companies use door to door sales; but they have sales people or hire companies to do it for them. The contractor or his workers will not solicit business themselves. A reputable company will offer a contract for you to sign which will include a cancellation form. Under Ohio law you have three business days to cancel any contract from a door to door solicitation.

- Offers you a discount for finding other customers: A "referral sale" is illegal in Ohio, and you will probably not get the promised discount.

- Just happens to have left over materials from a previous job: This rarely turns out to be a bargain and is a favorite scam of groups who prey on the elderly with driveway sealing or home power washing schemes.

- Asks you to obtain required permits, or asks for payment up front: Reputable companies will only ask for a reasonable down payment. They will also insist on a contract and will offer a receipt for your payment.

- Suggests that you borrow from a lender the contractor knows: A favorite scam of some unscrupulous contractors is "slip-sheeting," a practice in which a contractor or lender slips in paper work such as a second mortgage or even a quit claim deed into the package.

- Uses high pressure sales tactics: Pressures you for an immediate decision, or uses scare tactics such as telling you your roof is going to collapse, or your furnace is going to explode. Be very wary if this is the case and contact a known company or local inspector for a second opinion.

- Does not have a listing in the local phone book: This and the appearance of the person and their trucks or equipment are two of the best clues to watch for. Reputable companies have employees or hire companies to do their solicitations; they do not send workers roaming the neighborhoods in unmarked or unkempt trucks looking for business.

The vast amount of home improvement scams that occur in this area involve roving groups who target specific areas preying on the elderly. If you have elderly friends or family, be sure to share this information with them, and let them know if any at any time they have any concerns with a solicitor they should close the door and call the police. A little awareness and education can go a long way in protecting our elderly from these predatory thieves. If you or someone you know needs home improvement work, check with people you know for referrals or check your local phone book. Be sure to ask plenty of questions of the contractor, and if you are not satisfied, move on to the next choice.

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