Beware of home improvement scams

Thinking about home improvements? Think about avoiding spring home improvement scams! Many New York homeowners consider springtime to mean the start of home repair and remodeling season. Spring can also bring a severe storm season and damage from wind, rain or even snow puts home repair in even higher demand. Unfortunately, some dishonest contractors see spring as the start of home repair rip-off season. Your home is your biggest investment and being a homeowner can make you a target of some of the most common scams in recent years. According to the New York State Attorney Generals Office, home improvement scams, from shoddy workmanship to traditional bait and switch frauds, are an increasing source of consumer complaints across the nation. Watch for home improvement contractors who come to your home unsolicited to inform you that you need expensive repair work, such as to chimney or driveway damage that you never noticed. Many times, these salesmen will offer you a special deal because they had material left over from another job in your neighborhood. Limited time offers and high-pressure sales pitches can be come-ons to a scam. The attorney generals office suggests getting a second opinion. It cant hurt to shop around and it might save you some money. But, watch out for deals that seem too good to be true they may be. Consider the following suggestions before agreeing to costly improvements and repairs to your home: Check with the Better Business Bureau, prior customers, banks and suppliers. Always ask for references and contact them before you sign a contract. Check with friends and neighbors who may have contracted for similar work and contact your local Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints lodged against a contractor. Get any promises in writing and, if you can, ask a lawyer to review the terms of a written contract before you sign. If you dont get it in writing, you may give up important legal rights. Be wary of demands for hefty down payments. Many contractors will ask for a good faith deposit, but most reputable contractors will bill you after the work is done, not before. Dont be pressured into paying additional fees after work has started. If you feel threatened, dont surrender your rights. Call the police. Dont pay unreasonable advance sums. Negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job. Never pay the full price up front. Know your rights. You have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing. You can help to stop rip-offs and scams by contacting the attorney generals office before you do business with an unknown company and by notifying them of a potential scam. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you have a problem, contact the local attorney generals office at 562-3282 or visit them at 43 Durkee Street, Suite 700, Plattsburgh. You will receive an official consumer complaint form and instructions on how to file a complaint. You may also call the Attorney Generals Office Consumer Frauds Bureau Consumer Hotline at 1-800-771-7755. The Senior Connection is a column provided by the Clinton County Office for the Aging. For more information about services for senior citizens, contact their office at 135 Margaret St., Suite 105, Plattsburgh, or call them at 565-4620.

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