QUESTION: My neighbor is elderly and on a fixed income. She was approached by a driveway sealing company who offered to seal her driveway at a low price. By the time the job was done, she paid several hundred dollars and it appears that her driveway looks worse. She is unable to locate the company to have the driveway repaired properly. What can be done so that this doesn’t happen to other homeowners?
ANSWER: Spring, summer and fall are the times when paving con artists prey upon homeowners, especially senior citizens. They show up at your door, offer a very low price to asphalt or seal your driveway, and offer a great bargain because “they have material left over” from a job nearby. Theses con artists may claim to offer a “lifetime guarantee” but they don’t offer a contract. They want you to make a snap decision and want you to pay cash on the spot.
It may be tempting to dress up your cracked and faded driveway but watch out. Those are all signals of a scam. The original low estimate is often replaced by much higher unexpected charges, even up to thousands of dollars. Sometimes the con artists are menacing or threatening, especially to the elderly, and the job turns out to be very poor or worthless (sometimes they just paint the driveway.) By the time you realize you’ve been scammed, the con artists are long gone cashing your check at the nearest bank on their way out of town. These are usually flat out con schemes run by wandering scammers. Traveling from town to town, these con artists hit and run taking your hard earned money with them.
Don’t be cheated: Beware of any contractor knocking on your door; reputable contractors almost never do that. Instead, contact established local paving companies for estimates, and then compare prices. Always ask for references and check them out. Even if they give you a legitimate looking business card, write down the registration of the vehicles that show up with anyone who is doing the work.
The best advice is to deal with local contractors you know you can trust. How do you know if it is a con artist, or a schemer? Here are some of the telltale signs:
– They will try to pressure you into making a decision that day.
– They want you to pay cash or write a check payable to an individual, not a company.
– They will not give straight answers to questions.
– They will not provide a signed contract.
If you suspect that the contractor is possibly a con artist, report them to the Grafton Police Department so we can look into their operation and protect your interests. Watch out for older neighbors who might be threatened or intimidated by traveling con artists.
Don’t fall for their tricks: Never deal with an asphalt paver or seal coater unless you have first done your homework. Complaints may be filed against a particular company or individual. Contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation or the Better Business Bureau to make sure the company is reputable.
Remember, any legitimate company wanting your business will be more than willing to allow you time to check them out. Don’t fall prey to high pressure tactics such as “this is the only chance you’ll have” or by tomorrow the extra materials will be gone,” or “I’m only in your area today.” If you have an expensive project or repair, be especially cautious of these offers. Investigate before you invest.
Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Anyone with questions for the Chief’s Column may submit them by mail to the Grafton Police Department, 28 Providence Road, Grafton, MA 01519. You may also email your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include an appropriate subject line, as I do not open suspicious email for obvious reasons.
Normand A. Crepeau, Jr.
Chief of Police