DATE: Tuesday, February 07, 2017
SUBJECT: Home Improvement Impersonators
RELEASE NUMBER: 2017-NR-014
CONTACT: Lt. Noah Robinson
AUTHORITY: Sheriff Dave Wedding
The Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a theft case in which a woman was tricked into allowing the suspects into her home.
A male and female couple claimed to be Home Improvement contractors that had previously done gutter repair at victim’s home. The suspects claimed they wanted to repair a leak “free of charge”.
After the woman admitted the suspects into her home, the female suspect distracted the victim while the male entered the victim’s bedroom and stole her jewelry.
Some criminals will pass themselves off as legitimate contractors and attempt to offer services at a substantial or unrealistic discount. Others will impersonate a contractor entirely in order to gain entry into a home for the purpose of committing theft.
Few reputable contractors sell their services door to door. You should be skeptical of an offer if:
- The contractor claims to have “left over” material from a nearby job.
- The contractor proposes an unrealistic timetable (such as grading, preparing and paving a driveway in one afternoon).
- The contractor does not appear to have the proper equipment for the job.
- The contractor uses high pressure tactics to persuade you.
- The contactor quotes a price that seems too good to be true.
- The contractor is unable or unwilling to provide any references or is not listed with the Better Business Bureau or on file with the Vanderburgh County Building Commission.
- The contractor claims to be from out of town, or claims to be local but his vehicle displays an out of state license plate.
From experience, we offer the following suggestions to help avoid becoming the victim of home improvement fraud or theft:
- Don’t allow a door to door solicitor into your home, period.
- Don’t commit to a home improvement project on the spur of the moment.
- Select a contractor with care. Check with the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau to determine if the contractor you are considering has a history of complaints.
- Deal locally. Use an established contractor with ties to the community.
- Be wary of a low price. Time and material drive the price of any job. If a bid seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t commit to a job unless you have been given a formal bid. Project bids should be in writing and clearly spell out what work is to be performed.
- Indiana law requires written home improvement contracts for jobs exceeding $150.00. Before signing a contract, make certain it clearly defines: the material to be used, the work to be performed, the timetable for completion, and the total price along with provisions for any contingency expenses. Make sure the contractor’s name and contact information appears on the contract. The contractor must sign the contract and leave you a copy.
- Verify the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. Contact the Vanderburgh County Building Commission to verify a contractor’s license is in good standing.
- Avoid paying for a project until the work is completed; if this is unavoidable never pay more than 1/3 of the total cost as a down payment.
- A reputable contractor should guarantee his workmanship. Get a copy of any warranty or guarantee in writing.
- Retain all records related to the project, including any correspondence.
If you have been a victim of home improvement fraud or theft, please call 911. To submit a tip, please click here.