Summer has officially arrived, and for many Americans that means the start of barbecues and camping trips. But for police departments around the country, it’s also the start of home improvement fraud season.
Around the country, authorities are grappling with a surge in home improvement scams. In the past, many of these scams were perpetrated by door-to-door con men, but in the 21st century many of these cases involve fraudulent Craigslist postings. And sadly, elderly residents are often the most vulnerable to such criminals.
In Connecticut, police in Vernon arrested two brothers who conned a woman in her 60s out of nearly $50,000. The brothers allegedly agreed to replace her roof, paint her house, install new electrical wiring, and perform various other renovations around her home. Instead, they ran off with the money — and $5,700 in jewelry.
As is often the case in these types of home improvement scams, the pair were operating under the name of a fake construction company and lacked permits, licenses, or insurance. And in Southern California, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office is looking for victims of a Craigslist scammer who stole tens of thousands of dollars from his victims. In the Orange County case, the alleged scammer performed an onsite consultation, provided a reasonable quote, and then demanded an upfront, same-day deposit.
The average American homeowner will spend 1-4% of their home’s value on annual maintenance and repair work, but police say that too often that money ends up in the hands of criminals. Homeowners aren’t the only victims of typical home improvement scams, either.
In New Jersey, a Jersey City contractor recently admitted to diverting nearly $40,000 in federal grants away from Union City and into his own bank account. That contractor was the fourth man charged in the home improvement scheme so far.
Homeowners are advised to investigate contractors before hiring them. Any contractors who lack licenses or insurance should be avoided.