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Home Repair Rip-Offs — Watch Your Wallet

Friday, 15 June 2007 12:00 AM

Many experts are predicting a more intense than usual 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. In addition, many Americans face potential damage to their home from tornados, floods, and other natural disasters.

The aftermath of many of these natural disasters put a fresh focus on a nomadic clan commonly known as Travelers. This highly secretive, almost invisible, clique are descendants of immigrants who came to the United States in the 1800s. They still speak their own language and are intensely distrustful of outsiders.

And, according to law enforcement officials, a few Travelers are alleged to be associated with scams, mostly involving home improvement schemes.

In fact, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), a California state agency, has issued a warning about some Travelers who may be fraudulent home contractors and carry out roofing, painting, and paving swindles.

According to the CSLB, a common sham setup is like this: A Traveler knocks on a homeowner's door, claims to have roofing material left over from a job just completed in the neighborhood, and offers to repair or seal the roof or driveway at a reduced price. The con artist will then use a useless, watery substance on the roof or driveway, collect a cash payment, and then move on without revealing their phone number or address. Once the homeowner realizes no work has been done, and that they have been schemed, it is too late — the Traveler is gone.

Other common Traveler routines, according to the CSLB, include sneaking a wet sponge or spray bottle into the victim's home, secretly applying water to the ceiling, and then claim it is wet from a leaky roof. Also, Travelers like to target older residential neighborhoods or mobile home parks and look for elderly homeowner victims who may not realize they have been defrauded until family members examine their bank records and discover that funds have been spent.

A Quick Security Tip: Many paving jobs completed by home repair crooks are done so poorly that the asphalt will crack, or even wash away, after the first rain!

What can you do to help protect yourself and your loved ones from these mischievous swindles?

The CSLB offers these home repair rip-off red flags you should be aware of:

1 — Door-to-door solicitations from individuals related by family.

2 — An offer to do painting, roofing, or paving repairs.

3 — An offer to apply "sealers" to roofs, walls, concrete or asphalt.

4 — A claim they have left-over materials at a cheap price.

5 — High pressure or scare tactics.

6 — The use of invertible names such as, for example, mixing Charles Johnston Stewart and Charles Stewart Johnston.

7 — A reluctance to give an up-front price or a written contract in advance of work being performed.

8 — A demand for cash.

9 — Brand-new vehicles, truck-mounted spray machines, and out-of-state license plates.

10 — Toll-free telephone numbers instead of local numbers.

11 — Post office boxes, private mailboxes and suites instead of local business addresses.

Here is an actual case, as reported by the CSLB, of a home repair fraud: One suspected Traveler was arrested in California for contracting without a license. This unlicensed paving contractor, and three associates, all from the Midwest, arrived in California with paving equipment in tow, and checked into a local motel. After they picked-up asphalt from a supplier, they drove to a residence, offered to pave the driveway for an exorbitant amount of money, began work, which was below the industry standard.

The red flags in this scenario are that the contractor had no license, no local business address or phone number, and no way for the homeowner to contact him or follow-up to resolve problems.

A Quick Security Tip: It is important to reiterate that only a few Travelers are alleged to be involved with perpetrating these scams.

For more details on this subject, please check out this Web site: www.cslb.ca.gov.

My Final Thoughts: These alleged lawbreakers travel across the United States and perform inferior, useless or even destructive work. And once the victim realizes that they have been bilked, it is usually too late to locate the fraudulent contractor.

Your best bet is to avoid these shady characters in the first place by making sure you are doing business with an established, legitimate home improvement business.

Note: If you manufacture or distribute any security, safety, homeland defense, emergency preparedness or crime prevention related products, please send information on your product line for possible future reference in this column to: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2007 by Bruce Mandelblit

"Staying Safe" with Bruce Mandelblit is a regular column for the readers of NewsMax.com and NewsMax.com Magazine. Bruce welcomes your thoughts. His e-mail address is: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com. Bruce is a nationally known security journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer. Bruce writes "Staying Safe," a weekly syndicated column covering the topics of security, safety and crime prevention. Bruce was commissioned as a Kentucky colonel — the state's highest honor — for his public service.

This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.


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Many experts are predicting a more intense than usual 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. In addition, many Americans face potential damage to their home from tornados, floods, and other natural disasters. The aftermath of many of these natural disasters put a fresh focus on...
Friday, 15 June 2007 12:00 AM
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