State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Police Warn of Possible Home Repair Scams

by on July 02, 2013 5:32 PM

After reports from residents saying they are receiving too many phone calls from individuals claiming to be roofing contractors, the State College Police believe there could be a scam at work in the area. The unidentified callers say they are working in the area because of the recent severe weather and are offering free roof inspections or other repair work.

Various business names have been provided, including "Total Construction Service" and "Roof Pros." Call back numbers provided will often lead to a generic voicemail with no business name asking callers to leave their name and call back number, police say.

Residents are urged to be cautious about storm-related consumer problems and potential scams. Consumers should remain vigilant and understand their rights as they hire contractors to complete home repairs.

According to the police, all home improvement contractors who do more than $5,000 worth of business a year in Pennsylvania are required to register with the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection. Those businesses must also provide consumers with specific information before proceeding with any project, including:

  • The contractor's registration number, which must be included in all contracts, estimates and advertisements.
  • A written contract for any project costing more than $500
  • Information about the consumer's three-day right to cancel a home improvement contract.
  • Details about the materials and labor included in the project.
  • Total cost of the work. 
  • A specific start-date and end-date for the project.

The state's Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act limits the amount of any up-front payments that contractors can collect. For projects costing more than $5,000, contractors may not accept advance payment of more than one-third of the total price of the contract, police say.

Police suggest some tips for consumers to practice when possible: Get multiple estimates for any major project, check references for recent work before committing to a project and to be wary of individuals who approach you with stories of "just being in the neighborhood" or other unsolicited offers that seem "too good to be true."

Warning signs for potential home repair scams include:

  • Unsolicited door-to-door sales pitches.
  • Requests for large up-front payments.
  • No written estimates or contracts.Offers to perform work using "left over" or "discount" materials from other jobs.
  • High-pressure sales pitches.

If you encounter a contractor who is not providing the information required by Pennsylvania law, residents are encouraged to file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General and consider using another business for your project.

Reports can be made by submitting an online consumer complaint using the Attorney General's website (Click on the "Complaints" button on the front page of the website and then select the "Consumer Complaint Form") or for those consumers who do not have access to a computer by calling the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline, at 1-800-441-2555 (Monday through Friday during normal business hours).

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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