Subject: Police Warn of Home Repair Scams
Date Sent: April 28, 2016
I am forwarding a timely message from the County police.
Police call them "woodchucks," men and women who cruise the older neighborhoods looking for senior citizens living alone who can be conned or manipulated or intimidated into paying ridiculous sums for little or no work.
Door-to-door scams are among the most common crimes against senior citizens. Why so? Retirement-age folks are more likely to be home to answer the door during the day. Usually raised to be polite, they're less likely to slam the door. And when scammed, they're less likely to report it to police or other authorities.
The scammers drive through more established neighborhoods, ones with big trees, fewer children and maybe more slightly declining houses. They look for older sedans, with handicapped license plates or hang tags. No child seats.
It starts with trimming a tree. Then maybe a gutter needs fixing, driveway repair or a chimney repairing. And within weeks, more than $100,000 is gone. It's often hard for police to document what work was done, and elderly homeowners can't climb a roof to confirm work, or can't remember what was agreed to and what wasn't. Checks are sometimes made out to different people, and sometimes the woodchucks drive the victim to the bank and cash checks for the scammers. Many don't report the crime, out of embarrassment or fear.
Before home repairs are made, do your homework, ask friends and families for references. Call Consumer Protection, consult outside resources like Angies list and similar. There is a three day right of refusal on all contracts, so if two days later you decide that the deal might not be the best, you can back out. Just because there is a contract doesn't mean that it is legitimate. If you are suspicious of the repair person, call Police immediately 301-279-8000 and give descriptions of the person and vehicle.
- The repairperson drives an unmarked truck or van with an out-of-state license.
- You are offered a "special price" if you sign today.
- The worker wants upfront cost or fees, or accepts only cash.
- No written estimates or contracts are provided.
- The worker wants to start immediately.
- The offer sounds "too good to be true"
- The worker cannot provide a MHIC card for home improvement.
- The worker wants to the check made out to him/her instead of company.
Although the crews can make big money fast but they can spend it just as fast on drugs, creating a need to go back to victims for more money.
So don't be a victim. Keep an eye out for these common forms of front-door fraud, such as driveway resurfacing, door-to-door soliciting and phony utility workers tend to target the elderly.
Pretty good a couple of thoughts although the majority of the woodchucks are men women are often used to get the contract. If they want to start immediately that might be a clue that it is a scam. If it is a company but the person wants the check written out to him personally its probably illegal.
On the precaution side, tell them to do their homework, ask friends and families for references. Call Consumer Protection, consult outside resources like Angies list and similar. There is a three day right of refusal on all contracts so two days later you decide it was a bad idea or in the meantime you find out that deal might not be the best you can back out. And just because there is a contract doesn't mean that it is legitimate.
If they are doing home improvement, the contractor carries a MHIC card on him; if the card can't be produced upon demand, don't use the service.