home-improvement  scam
Illustration: Sara Ghasletwala
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The Scam

A workman knocks on the door and tells you he’s just finished coating a driveway down the street and that he’s got leftover asphalt to get rid of. He’ll repave your driveway for a fraction of what it cost your neighbor. “It’s the oldest scam, and it still cons hundreds of people each year,” says Jim Rooney, a home inspector and contractor in Annapolis, Maryland. Typically the material is inferior or it’s improperly applied. Then you’ll have to shell out even more money to have the mess cleaned up and repaired, Rooney explains.

How Not to Get Taken: Good contractors rely on word of mouth, not door-to-door solicitation, to attract customers. But if you’re tempted to take the offer, ask to see the contractor’s license and write down his ID numbers. Most states require home-improvement professionals to carry a license, as well as liability and workers’ compensation insurance, which offer you protection if the contractor skips out or if someone is injured on the job. Then call your state’s attorney general’s office, which typically oversees contractor activities, to determine if the guy is actually licensed in the type of work he is bidding on and that there are no outstanding consumer complaints against him. In states where the attorney general doesn’t regulate contractors, ask a representative to direct you to the agency that does. You can also get contact information for regulators at contractors-license.org.
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