Consumer Fraud Prevention Tips for Seniors

Consumer fraud essentially refers to illegal transactions between merchants or business people and consumers. The fraud usually results in false claims, misrepresentation, overcharging, failure to deliver goods, or failure to return a deposit.

A recent scam in Oklahoma which is now believed to be in Springfield involves "power-washing houses" (tip was originally from March 2003).

Signs of Home Improvement Schemes
  • The perpetrators of the scam may offer free home inspections or surveys.
  • They may demand large down payments or deposits for home repairs and then disappear with the money.
  • They may distract the homeowner and then burglarize the home.
  • They may quote a low price for home repairs and then raise it exorbitantly after the work has begun.
  • They may trick senior citizens into signing home improvement loan contracts, using their homes as collateral.
  • Popular home improvement schemes include roofing, driveway repair, and plumbing repairs.
Don't Be a Victim
  • Be skeptical of contractors who solicit business door-to-door.
  • Don't rush into any home repair decision and don't contract to have a job done immediately.
  • Obtain several written estimates for a proposed repair job.
  • Insist on seeing a contractor's license. These are necessary in most states even for jobs like resurfacing a driveway or patching a roof.
  • Ask to see references for the contractor and check them out.
  • Obtain a detailed written contract and job estimate spelling out what will be done, when it will be done, what materials will be used, and how much it will cost.
  • Pay as little money as possible up front.
  • For a large job, consider obtaining a performance bond.
  • Inspect the work as it is being done to insure that replacements are really being installed.
If anyone puts pressure on you to have work done immediately, that should be a warning sign to you to slow down and take your time making a decision.