Many of us remember when it was common to have a door-to-door salesperson knock at our front door and offer products for sale. Today, however, responding to door-to-door sales pitches is riskier and requires common sense and caution.
At this time of year, it is not uncommon to have individuals or companies come to the door offering to do yard work or home repairs. "I was just in the neighborhood, and I noticed that your lawn could use some work," they might say, or "I just finished up a paving project in the neighborhood and have some extra materials I can sell you at a big discount."
According to the Rhode Island Attorney General's Consumer Protection Unit, construction and home repairs were among the top ten complaints the Office received last year.
"With the warmer weather, we see an increase in fly-by-night scam artists who show up on your doorstep offering to do house repairs and yard work on the cheap only to pull the old bait-and-switch," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "The offer is convenient. The work needs to be done. The price might even be right. Still, you should do your research before agreeing to have any work done. Too often, unsolicited offers are from scam artists. Savvy scam artists know that people are looking for help at this time of year and they will drive through neighborhoods searching for potential victims."
Attorney General Kilmartin wants you to keep your hard earned money and offers these tips with respect to home repairs:
Be wary of contractors going door to door offering services.
Avoid any contractors who stop by your house and claim that they have extra materials and offer a big discount.
Make sure the contractor is licensed with the proper state agency.
Ask for references and be sure to check them before hiring anyone.
Make sure you get all quotes, estimates and work details in writing before you agree to any work. If possible, get several quotes from different contractors so that you can compare the services and fees.
Don't be pressured to make an immediate decision. Legitimate contractors will provide written estimates that will be valid for several days or weeks.
Make sure the written contract outlines all of the work that the contractor has agreed to perform, the dates the work will begin and is expected to be completed, the type and quality of materials to be used and the total cost of the work (including labor).
Ask for proof of insurance and make sure that the contractor carries general liability and workers' compensation. If the contractor is not insured, you may be liable for accidents occurring on your property.
Be wary of contractors that only accept cash. Reputable contractors will accept checks or credit cards.
Avoid contractors that require you to pay for everything up front before they begin any work.
Don't allow anyone in your home unless you are sure who they are. Scam artists can commit crimes such as burglaries if given the chance.
Report any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency.
If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, please contact the Consumer Protection Unit at the Department of Rhode Island Attorney General at (401) 274-4400. You can download a consumer complaint by visiting our website at www.riag.ri.gov. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.