Scammers are targetting homeowners by offering online coupons for chimney cleaning, driveway sealing, and other home repairs, according to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (CDCP).
The agency issued a statement yesterday warning people to be careful when signing up online for home repair deals.
There is a clear surge visible in online coupons that are offered on many social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, Valpak and so on, said the CDCP. It is importnat that people that receive such electronic offers to investigate the contractors before they agree to any work that is offered, according to the agency.
William Rubenstein, Consumer Protection Commissioner, declared:
“Many sites offer daily discounts on a variety of home services, such as chimney cleaning and driveway sealing. Scammers are also using these sites to lure unsuspecting homeowners into buying services they don’t need, so be sure to verify that contractors you contact are registered to do work in Connecticut. A shoddy or unneeded repair is a bad deal at any price, so make sure the “discount” is really going to save you money, not cost you.”
It was stated that “shoddy chimney services” currently stand out as the most reported of all home improvement services in the past years. Although the issue was directed towards residents of Connecticut, the popular online scam is currently running throughout the US.
The scam usually follows the following steps:
- A home owner redeems an online coupon. It is usually for low cost chimney sweeping or inspection.
- Workers arrive and claim that there are other problems that need to be fixed really fast.
- Workers pressure homeowners to hire the crew in order to make all repairs immediately. Sometimes even scare tactics are involved.
- Workers do work that is unnecessary, of an inferior quality or actually do no work at all.
Rubenstein also added:
“Online advertising could worsen the problem. While consumers are usually careful about shopping online, it’s wise to proceed with an even higher level of caution when giving contractors access to your home. You might actually save money and worry by working with contractors whose competence you’ve confirmed with friends, relatives and others whom you trust.”
In order to avoid such home improvement online scams, the CDCP issued a set of recommendations which included:
- Check the license of the contractor. The firm doing the work needs to be registered in the state where you live.
- Read the contract that you sign. This includes absolutely all terms and conditions. Print the online transaction records and emails that go to or come from the seller.
- Instead of agreeing to work with the contractor that offered the coupon, ask for other estimates. Never assume the fact that a low bid is actually the lowest price on the market.
- Pay with the use of the credit or debit card. Federal law allows you to dispute various charges and even withhold payments in the event that the work done is not according to the contract signed. Only use cash when the contractor is known and trusted.
- Ignore time limited offers if you do not know what you are dealing with or you do not understand the work that is to be done. Ask for an expert opinion and make sure that the expert is not commissioned by the contractor that is offering the hard sell.
- Even when you take advantage of a coupon, check the credentials of the contractor.