Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus cautions homeowners to beware of driveway repair con artists. Driveway repair scams are reported in communities across Dutchess County every year, particularly as the weather becomes warmer. The Dutchess County Department of Consumer Affairs is currently dealing with a recent complaint made by a City of Poughkeepsie resident.
“Consumer education is the best defense against fraud. Residents need to be aware of the warning signs of a potential con artist so they don’t become a victim of consumer fraud,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “Our Dutchess County Department of Consumer Affairs is here to help and residents should turn to them whenever they have questions or concerns about a purchase or contract.”
Here is the typical driveway repair scam scenario: Unscrupulous people typically approach a homeowner or business and offer to patch, seal, or re-pave a driveway; offer a great low price; and claim they have just enough material left over from another job nearby to do an additional driveway. The representatives are usually polite and persuasive and drive nice work vehicles. They often do not have a business card and if they do, it’s very limited information. The bill of sale typically does not include their address or full name.
In a recent case in the City of Poughkeepsie, a consumer claimed he authorized the repair of a small patch and did not authorize additional work. The contractor did additional work anyway and then demanded an exorbitant payment. The following is the actual quote from the complaint form: “This person gave me an estimate of $68 to repair cracks in the driveway. Person went ahead and sealed entire driveway while I went out shopping and charged $4000. When I complained he reduced it to $3000. I did not authorize the work. He put additional short coat at top of driveway.”
According to Consumer Affairs Director Nelson Kranker, using caution and common sense is the best way to avoid doing business with fly-by-night operators. “They may offer great deals, even a lifetime guarantee – whatever it takes to get your money, but often the quality of the material used and its application are inferior,” said Mr. Kranker. “By the time you realize you have a problem, the driveway paving crew will be long gone out of town. Even worse, these scammers may do the work and demand a much higher price at the end of the job.”
To avoid being the victim of paving scam, the Dutchess County Department of Consumer Affairs advises residents to be wary of contractors who:
Solicit door to door.
Arrive in an unmarked truck or van.
Claim they have just completed a job nearby and just happen to have leftover materials, so they can do the work for a discount.
Pressure you for an immediate decision.
Accept only cash, require large deposits or require the entire cost up front. A deposit of 10-15 percent of the bid price is normally sufficient.
Refuse to provide a written estimate or local references.
Provide credentials or references that cannot be verified.
“We encourage residents to share this information with older friends, relatives and neighbors because while most business owners are hard working, honest people, the small group of dishonest business owners often target older adults,” said County Executive Steinhaus.
If a resident is confronted with a contractor who demands more money than originally agreed to for the job and refuses to leave, the Consumer Affairs Department advises them to immediately call the police.
“Although the majority of contractors in our community are honest and trustworthy, it is always best to be informed and alert,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “If you have concerns, contact Consumer Affairs before you agree to the work so that you will be satisfied after the job is completed.”
For more tips on hiring a contractor or for consumer education materials, visit http://www.dutchessny.gov/.