By Jeff Pizzino, APR, Corp. Communications –
Sacrificing safety for the sake of conveniences poses risks. As shoppers choose online over brick-and-mortar stores, they’re also choosing to find contractors online instead of the traditional means of referrals or an established in-town business.
When looking to hire a contractor, consumers can now easily turn to online platforms such as HomeAdvisor.com, Houzz.com, Angi.com (previously Angie’s List) Thumbtack, or by doing a web search. But how do you know the contractor’s online profile is accurate and truthful? Does that person really have the expertise to do your job? Does that person have a license and valid insurance?
A dishonest contractor can lead to disastrous results for homeowners, as many have experienced.
2 Fraudsters Caught in MN
There are numerous news reports highlighting instances where homeowners were scammed by fraudulent contractors, leaving them with subpar work, mounting expenses, and little to no legal recourse — except for those that quickly acted on their suspicions.
A Minneapolis-St. Paul TV station recently ran a news report about scammers in the area inspecting a homeowner’s roof, tearing it up, and then stating they found damage that needed repair.
But they were no match for an 88-year-old woman. She assisted local law enforcement in a sting operation to arrest two men posing as roofing contractors. They had flown a drone over her neighborhood and said they found her chimney showed signs of cracks and needed emergency repairs.
She became suspicious after receiving a business card with one man’s name hand-written on it, and a hand-written contract with several misspellings. She arranged for the men to return on another day — while several detectives were waiting inside and outside her home to arrest the fraudsters. It took help from the Department of Homeland Security to clarify who they had in custody: two UK residents known to the U.S. federal government as fraudsters.
This example serves as a cautionary tale for homeowners seeking contractors online.
3 Warning Signs
Here are three potential warning signals that should put you on high alert:
- Natural Disasters and Deceptive Contractors: In times of distress, scammers often exploit vulnerable homeowners affected by natural disasters. They offer quick fixes and promise to restore properties damaged by tornadoes, flooding, hurricanes, etc. These deceptive contractors may lack the expertise to deliver quality work, resulting in further damage and financial loss.
- False Inspections: Some so-called contractors use tactics like drone inspections to claim homeowners have roof and/or chimney damage that need immediate repair.
- Glowingly Online Reviews: Deceptive contractors create alluring online profiles with impressive credentials and fake reviews. Homeowners who rely solely on such profiles may end up with contractors who lack the skills they claim to possess.
Be vigilant when hiring contractors online. While digital platforms offer convenience and can provide valuable information, they also open the door to potential scams. They should not be the sole basis for hiring a contractor or service provider online. It’s crucial to be vigilant, verify credentials, seek recommendations, and trust your instincts when hiring contractors.
A new truth-verification technology, VerifEye, can be used by online platforms when onboarding contractors. This simple, self-administered test can help verify in 10 minutes if a contractor has the proper credentials, expertise and insurance, doesn’t have a criminal record, and more. Demand online platforms start using technology like VerifEye to protect consumers.
Jeff’s been a spin-free public relations pro since 1987. He’s passionate about telling true stories with clarity, impact and authenticity. He’s currently the Chief Authentic Officer at AuthenticityPR, based in Johnson City, TN. Jeff also functions as the virtual VP of Corporate Communications for tech startup Converus, a client.