Seniors, beware: Home-improvement scams in season |

Seniors, beware: Home-improvement scams in season

Spring is the time for flowers, warmer weather and – sometimes – home-improvement scams.

Barbara Bashall, executive director of the Nevada County Contractors Association, said she received a recent report of an asphalt driveway paving scheme in the area.

The would-be contractors went to the home of one couple in their 80s and claimed they had extra asphalt for a driveway paving, leftovers from another job. The couple almost lost $21,000, but the scam was averted.

“The elderly always seem to be the target of these scams,” said Bashall. “It seems to happen every spring.”

To avoid getting scammed, people should be wary of door-to-door sales, Bashall said.

Asphalt paving scams are the most common, Bashall said.

Roofing and painting scams are also part of the scam operators’ repertoire – particularly the group of fraudulent repair contractors known as “The Travelers.”

The Travelers were spotted in California earlier this year making their annual winter trip through the warm-weather state, according to the state Contractors Licensing Board.

A common scenario is that a Traveler knocks on a homeowner’s door, claims to have roofing material left over from a job just completed in the neighborhood, and offers to repair or seal a roof at a reduced price. The Traveler sprays a useless, watery substance on the roof or driveway, collects a cash payment and then moves on without leaving a contact phone number or address.

Before signing up with a contractor, homeowners should get references and a California state contractors license number, Bashall said. The license number can be checked out with the Contractors State License Board, or State Contractors Licensing Board as 1-800-321-CSLB.

A salesman is required to provide a home improvement contract, with three days’ right to cancel the contract.

“The biggest thing they should do is check contractors’ references,” said Bashall.

By law, a contractor cannot ask for more than 10 percent down, according to the board.

The board found that the most common complaints against contractors can be avoided when consumers:

— Do not pay excessive down payments. By law, they can be no more than 10 percent.

— Do not let payments on home improvement projects get ahead of work.

— Hire only licensed building contractors

— Check out the contractor’s license status and history with the CSLB.

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