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Home improvement scammers prey on the elderly

As you get older, so does your home. In fact, 60 percent of seniors live in homes that are more than 20 years old. This means your home probably needs some improvements, repairs or accommodations for you as it becomes more difficult for you to get around. You may have explained this to the contractor who offered to do some work for you, and you never imagined someone would take advantage of your situation.

Unfortunately, between 20,000 and 100,000 scams are perpetrated against homeowners each year. If that seems like a broad range, it's because many victims are too embarrassed to report it or to seek help getting their money back. Over 30 percent of those victims are seniors like you, and they worry that if they admit to falling for a scam, their children may force them to give up their homes.

Recognizing a scam at your front door

When the contractor came to your door, he or she may have lied to you from the start. Many people who have been ripped off by fraudulent contractors report similar scenarios. Some common complaints include:

  • Contractors intentionally lied about the work they intended to do.
  • You paid for the work, but the contractor never returned to complete the project.
  • The contractor started the job but changed the contract and raised the price while the work was incomplete.

The person who agreed to do the work for you may have offered a discount, especially if you recommend the company to your neighbors and friends. Scammers may use other methods that should make you suspicious, such as these:

  • They say they can do the work cheaply because they have leftover materials from a job they just finished nearby.
  • They will only accept cash and may ask for the entire balance before they begin work.
  • They ask you to apply for any building permits.
  • They pressure you to agree to the work immediately.

A legitimate contractor should be able to offer you written details of the promised work. He or she should also be able to provide you with answers to your questions about the company, references and business practices. If the contractor can't answer your questions, you may suspect some consumer fraud is taking place.

Don't take it lying down

It is natural to feel a little foolish after a scam artist has taken advantage of you. In hindsight, you may see all the warning signs. However, because the deal may have sounded so good and you really needed the improvements, you went against your better judgment.

This does not have to be the end of the story. By contacting an attorney who is passionate about defending California consumers against fraudulent business practices, you may be able to reclaim your money and perhaps even damages. An attorney will investigate your situation and determine the best way to proceed to hold those accountable who misrepresented themselves to you. You do not have to be a victim of unscrupulous business practices with an aggressive lawyer defending your rights.

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