Home Improvement Scams

The Madison County Sheriff’s Office in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Consumer Law Center is offering the following safety tips to warn older Americans against becoming victims of a home improvement scam.

Now is the time that most people adventure outside to clean their yards or make home improvements. While there are many home improvement contractors that are legitimate there are also a small percentage of contractors that are not. These con-artists may use many different types of tactics when targeting seniors.

Helpful Advice

Make sure you:

  • Deal with reputable licensed and insured companies within your own area. Ask neighbors and friends to recommend a good handyman or contractor.
  • Don’t rely on leaflets stuffed in mailboxes or posted on bulletin boards.
  • Demand a written contract, including the work to be performed, the time frame and the agreed-upon cost of supplies and labor. Always keep a copy of the contract in a place you will easily find it.
  • Be sure the work is really necessary. Don’t take the word of someone who comes to your door.
  • Do not permit itinerant handymen to examine your house so they can give you an estimate. This is often the set-up to a scam or burglary... or worse. Ask them to leave immediately. Call the police if they don’t.
  • Don’t let the contractor finance your project. This almost always results in unnecessary charges. If you need financing, contact a bank or credit union.
  • Don’t be pushed into making quick decisions, get at least 2 other bids.
  • Ask for reference information such as names, addresses, and telephone numbers of previously satisfied customers. Obtain a name, telephone number and address of the person attempting to sell you the product, and tell them you will contact them after you call their references.
  • Be suspicious if the contractor tells you that they just happen to have left over materials from a previous job: This rarely turns out to be a bargain and is a favorite scam of groups who prey on the elderly with driveway sealing or home power washing schemes.

If you have elderly friends or family be sure to share this information with them; and let them know if at any time they have any concerns with a solicitor they should close the door and call the Sheriff’s Office. A little awareness and education can go a long way in protecting our elderly from these predatory thieves.

Victim Help

Victims shouldn’t feel embarrassed or be hesitate to contact the Madison County Office of the Sheriff. Remember that these con-artists are skilled and are very practiced in the art of deception. If you have been victimized once, be wary of persons who call offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.

If you have information about a fraud/scam, report it to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, by calling 315-366-2311, anonymous reports can be submitted by visiting our website