“We happen to be in your area:” Four tips for avoiding contractor scams

It’s an unfortunate fact, but we see it happen about this time every year; unskilled or unethical contractors looking for an easy way to make fast money through various home improvement scams. Unfortunately, shady business owners don’t mind taking advantage of many Southwest Florida homeowners, particularly our senior adults, who lack home repair knowledge.

The perfect summer time sales pitch might go something like this, “We are in your area today providing “free” inspections of……….”. Consumers can fill in the blank as fraudsters will provide so called “free” inspections on air conditioners, duct cleaning, roof repairs and just about anything that may need fixing.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit encourages you to follow these helpful tips to avoid being ripped off by unscrupulous workers:

• Cold-calling. In and of itself, cold-calling via telephone is not inherently a bad sign; but it is best to remember that high pressure sales tactics such as “today only” or “free inspection” can often end up costing the consumer in the long run.

• Get a second, even a third opinion. If in fact you need work done, do not sign a work order before getting at least one more estimate. If the company doing the “free inspection” is legitimate and has your best interest in mind, they won’t be offended if you seek another opinion.

• Ask for a written estimate that is 100% satisfaction guaranteed and make sure the estimate provides a detailed description of the work they are suggesting to be done as well as the cost. Carefully read what you are signing, even the small print. Before having the work done, check your equipment’s manufacturer warranty as your product may very well be, still under warranty.

• Get a reliability report from the Better Business Bureau, check the internet for complaints, ask for references and confirm the company is licensed and insured.

If you have questions regarding this safety and security tip, or if you would like to report a fraud or scam, please contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Fraud Line at 239-477-1242.