An old door-to-door con has come around again in the south-central Kansas area – the driveway paving scam.
The warm days of spring can always be counted on to bring more door-to-door con artists like these around. The Better Business Bureau has fielded complaints from victims of the scheme recently and wants to warn Kansans that there are likely to be more instances of it in the near future.
Here is how the scam works:
Paving scammers look for homes with obvious driveway problems. They knock on your door, claiming to have been working in the area, and they just happen to have some leftover paving material that they need to unload.
For an extraordinarily low price, they will go ahead and pave your driveway.
Frequently the case is made for doing the work without a contract. They argue that time is short and the paperwork would hold up things. The scammer knows that you need a driveway and is counting on catching you off-guard and winning you over with a too-good-to-be-true price.
Once they have you hooked, the work begins. Sadly, it often ends too soon.
Sometimes with the driveway incomplete, the homeowner is told that they have run out of material and will “be back later to finish the job.” On other occasions the contractor may “complete” the job, but only by overstretching the asphalt or concrete. A too-thin layer is put down and the result is a driveway that quickly deteriorates.
Overall, shoddy workmanship is often produced with the predictably unsatisfactory results.
Of course money is demanded and this is where things can quickly turn ugly. One favorite technique is a kind of extortion tactic: They have your driveway in a mess, unusable, and claim that they will come back and fix it, but you have to pay them first. Sometimes they demand much more than the agreed upon price.
The truth is, they may never come back.
Here are some warning signs that a paving company is not on the up-and-up:
▪ They claim that they have leftover material from another job. Professionals know how much material a job will take and do not overestimate it. That would be money lost, and they are not in the business of losing money.
▪ A quick decision is urged. There is usually a reason why they want you to decide quickly: it is so your common sense will not have a chance to be engaged. A trustworthy contractor will give a written estimate, valid for days or weeks, and detailing the work to be done and the price.
▪ They ask for cash upfront. Reputable contractors take checks or credit cards. It’s not a good idea to pay more than one-third of the total upfront, and then only with a written contract.
▪ Unmarked or out-of-state vehicles are signs of trouble. Ask to see a driver’s license. Ask where they are based. Remember: future problems may need to be addressed. Are they going to come back and fix them?
Keep these tips in mind when considering a paving contractor:
▪ Visit bbb.org to look up the company with the BBB.
▪ Get at least three bids in writing and consider more than just the price.
▪ Ignore high-pressure tactics. Stay in the driver’s seat.
▪ Get the company’s complete name and address. Look them up on the Internet. Search for their name with the word “complaint.”
Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.