Fake Contractors Are Canvassing Neighborhoods in Home Improvement Scams – Don't Become a Victim

Arlington police say scammers will offer to do a small job for a small price, then start work that could damage the home and come back with a much higher price tag

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You may have had some damage to your home from the high winds this week, but beware if anyone knocks on your door and tells you they can do a quick fix for a cheap price.

We’ve seen a lot of local police departments posting warnings about home improvement scams recently.



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Some departments have seen a significant uptick in these crimes since last fall,  with groups of people canvassing neighborhoods and targeting homeowners.

Police in Arlington, Massachusetts, have made several arrests and confiscated trucks and equipment this year in an effort to crack down on the crimes. They say these criminals are transients and they are very convincing.

“Their identities are fake, their registrations for their trucks are fake, their addresses are fake,” said Lt. Detective Bryan Gallagher of the Arlington Police Department.  “All their addresses either go back to a hotel or they come back to a post office box. Nothing about them is true, which makes them so difficult to track.”  

Some Arlington homeowners have lost significant amounts of money in these scams.

“They’ll literally just go drive around in a neighborhood.  They’ll look for a house that is in somewhat of a disrepair,” Gallagher explained.  “They’ll approach the homeowner,  knock, tell them that they're with a certain contracting company and they do masonry work, they do roofing work, whatever it may be. And then they tell the person that we can fix two of these steps ...for 80 bucks, they'll give them $80. And then unfortunately, what ends up happening is that they don't just fix the two steps. They end up taking down your entire front porch. ....and then before you know it, they come back to you and they say, well, that really small job for $80 is now going to be $7,000.   And while we're at it, we found a few other things wrong with the house. And while we're here, we can fix everything for you for $145,000.   And I know those numbers sound exorbitant, but believe it or not, those are real numbers that we worked with here in Arlington.  And an $80 job turned into a $145,000 job.”

When you need home repairs done :

  • Don’t be pressured into agreeing to work by someone offering a cheap price and only consider contractors who are licensed and insured.
  • Always get recommendations from people you know and trust.
  • It is wise to obtain multiple estimates in writing, including a description of the work, materials needed, completion date and price.
  • Take the time to research the contractor on the Better Business Bureau or state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website.
  • If someone comes to your door offering a service, don’t engage with them.  Police say these criminals are very convincing. They may tell you they are working in the neighborhood and have extra materials and offer you a great price to do it today. 
  • Another thing to look out for is people arriving in trucks that have no logos or company identification on them.  That’s another red flag.

It’s important to talk to the senior citizens in your life and let them know about these scams, as they are often targeted.

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