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Windom
Saturday, May 18, 2024

Watch out for asphalt paving scams

Don’t trust anyone to do the job if your driveway needs paving or repairs. BBB Scam Tracker has numerous reports of unscrupulous contractors who trick homeowners with supposedly good deals.

Homeowners end up with shoddy pavement — or nothing at all — to show for what they paid and, in some cases, have lost over $8,000.

How the scam works
A contractor leaves a pamphlet or shows up at the door. They claim they’ve been doing work in the area and just happened to notice the condition of your driveway or sidewalk. Since they’re already working nearby, they can give you a discount. If the price is agreeable, they will ask for a large percentage of the fee upfront. There is some hesitancy if there is a question about the price or details about the business and its location.
Once the transaction is complete, the scam contractor may disappear altogether. The contact number or email may not work, quickly helping you realize the contact information was a sham. If you protest, the contractor may use intimidation tactics, such as threatening a lawsuit, to convince you to pay.

In other cases, the contractor’s work is shoddy and unprofessional once complete, but the full payment has been made. Reaching the company the contractor allegedly represented is impossible, or another company was impersonated. In any of these scenarios, the chances of getting a refund or the work fixed are slim.

How to avoid contractor scams
• Be wary of unsolicited offers. Most scams involving contractors begin when a random contractor makes an effort to go out of their way to offer an estimate that was never requested.
• Research companies and contractors before you hire. Start with BBB.org. If the contractor has multiple negative reviews and complaints, don’t hire them. A simple internet search often reveals companies or individuals involved in fraudulent activities or provided unsatisfactory work to previous clients.
• Get everything in writing. Ask for an estimate in writing before payment is even discussed. Don’t let a contractor start working on a project until a written, signed contract outlining start and complete dates, a detailed description of the work, material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information is provided.
• Stagger payments. Most contractors will require a percentage of the total price upfront, but it should never be the full price before the work has begun. Instead, agree to stagger payments so that work can be inspected at various project stages.
• Use safe payment methods. Paying with a credit card provides peace of mind since the credit card company will help you if the company is fraudulent. If you use a check, write it to a company, not an individual. Paying cash or using an electronic wallet app is risky since there is no way to stop the payment or get some money back if anything goes wrong.

Share your scam story
Local law enforcement is concerned about the impact of scams on area residents, particularly the elderly.

Consequently, this newspaper works with local police and sheriff’s departments to keep residents updated on common schemes. Scam Alerts will appear in future editions as often as possible in the coming weeks.

Readers can also find online scam updates Tuesdays at windomnews.com.
If you have been the target of a scam, your first contact should be local authorities. Also, feel free to contact us with details (we can keep your name confidential).
Send your story to: rahnl@windomnews.com, or call 507-831-3455. By sharing, you could prevent someone from being scammed.

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