Paving scams resurface
If your driveway needs paving or sealing, don’t trust just anyone to do the job. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of unscrupulous contractors who trick homeowners with supposedly good deals. Victims end up with a shoddy job, or nothing at all.
From a Central Virginia resident:
“Two guys pulled up in a truck when my wife and I were in the driveway. They said they were in the area sealing a nearby driveway and had extra material and could give me a good deal. He showed me what he was going to do and gave me a flat rate of $870, which I agreed to. When the job was finished, he sent his helper to give me the bill for $2,590, saying it took more sealant and they charged by the gallon. That was $1720 more than I agreed to,” said a Central Virginia consumer that filed a complaint with our BBB office.
How the Scam Works
A contractor shows up at your door or calls you on the phone. They claim they’ve been doing work in your area and happened to notice the condition of your driveway or sidewalk. Since they’re already nearby, they can give you a discount. If you agree to the price, they’ll ask for a fee percentage up front. If you question it, the contractor might seem hesitant to reveal details about their business.
The contractor work, once complete, could look shoddy and unprofessional after it dries, but the full payment has been made. Reaching the company the contractor was allegedly representing is impossible, and the chance of getting a refund is poor.
How to Avoid Contractor Scams
- Be wary of unsolicited offers. Most of these scams begin when an unsolicited contractor makes an effort to go out of their way to offer you an estimate you never asked for in the first place. They hope to reel you in.
- Research companies and contractors before you hire. Start with BBB.org. If the contractor has multiple negative reviews and complaints, don’t hire them. Often, a simple internet search will reveal companies or individuals that have been 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 you have a written, signed contract that outlines start and complete dates, a detailed description of the work to be provided, material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information.
- Stagger your payments. Most contractors will require you to pay a percentage of the total price up front, but you should never pay the full price before the work has begun. Instead, make an agreement to stagger payments, so you can inspect work at various stages of the project.
- Use safe payment methods. Paying with a credit card is the best practice, since the credit card company will likely offer some recourse if the company is fraudulent. Checks are also a safe way to pay, but make it to a company rather than an individual. Paying cash or using an electronic wallet app is risky since there’s no way to stop the payment or get your cash back.
For More Information
If you’re the victim of a contractor scam, report the incident to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help alert others to similar scams.
About BBB: BBB serving Central Virginia serves Richmond, the Tri-Cities, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg, as well as 42 surrounding counties from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest, and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of BBB include business profiles, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, scam warnings, consumer and business education, and charity review.