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Beware of 'extra material' ripoffs

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Maryanna Phillips was out in her yard when two workers from an asphalt company pulled up. They said they could sealcoat her cracked driveway for $300 with materials left over from a job down the street.

“They made me feel bad," said Phillips. "The lady had been in a wreck. She had stitches all over her head and I’m like ‘Go, just do it.’”

The job was sloppy. Her decorative stone and yard ornaments were sprayed with sealant. Even worse, the excess asphalt was dumped on the street and splashed onto her car causing more than $1,200 in damage. Phillips immediately tried to stop payment on her check, but it was too late.

“I know better than this. I used to take calls all day, every day with people who got scammed just like this. Like I said, I know better. She played on my heart,” explained Phillips.

“It’s sad, but there are unscrupulous contractors out there, so you as a consumer need to beware," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. "Be cautious of anyone that comes to your home and tries to encourage you to take a deal on the spot. A deal today should be a deal tomorrow.”

Asphalt professional Joseph Sullivan explained, I get calls all the time, ‘I had this guy over here, there’s sealant all over the house,’ and unfortunately I have to tell people there’s no way to get it off. You have to start replacing things.”

Phillips has her guard back up, but says if she can get scammed, anyone can.

“Unfortunately, we live in a world where you just can’t really trust a lot of people, so you need to check people out before you hire ‘em out to do a job,” she said.

Angie's List says quality contractors don’t approach homeowners with left-over materials and a special, low price, and if an uninvited worker won’t leave when asked, call local authorities and stay inside.

Signs of an extra materials scam:

  • A contractor shows up at your house unexpectedly
  • Contractor references extra materials from a nearby job
  • Contractor offers a considerable discount if you hire immediately
  • The job takes very little time
  • The check is cashed immediately


How to avoid being scammed:

The best way to prevent a bad experience when you’re trying to find a contractor is to know the warning signs.  If you take a proactive approach to hiring and research all potential candidates, it should reduce the chances significantly that you will have a negative experience. Use the following tips to help you spot problematic contractors and to resolve any issues if they should arise.

  • Avoid door-to-door solicitors and those who only accept cash payments, offer discounts for finding customers or pressure you to make a quick decision.
  •  Verify the business is licensed to operate in your area, and check to see if it has a local address. Besides the fact that it makes it easy to reach the contractor, it also shows that the company has established itself and it provides more legitimacy. You should definitely avoid contractors who only want to give you a telephone number.
  • Ask the contractor for multiple references from past customers and check them. Visit the job sites if possible and speak to the homeowners. A contractor who doesn’t want to provide any references should be avoided.