March is Fraud Prevention Month and throughout the month members of the Community Safety Unit will be sharing information about common frauds and scams. This week we will focus on service scams.
Service scams make up the majority of the face –to-face frauds we typically encounter. Service scams can include home renovation scams by unlicensed contractors, as well as door to door fundraising scams which will often target senior citizens.
With spring in the air, home owners will often start thinking about completing renovations planned for over the long winter months. Before engaging a potential contractor it is very important to ask lots of questions ahead of time and request the names of past clients as references to confirm the quality of their work. Professional contractors will have no issues with providing you with this information and photos of their work.
Be cautious with new contractors or service companies who do not have ties to your community, and show up unsolicited, going door-to-door offering services such; gutter cleaning, evestrough repair/replacement, siding and fascia jobs. Often, once they secure a down payment or total payment for a project in advance they will leave the community and effectively close their fake business and the homeowner will be out the money paid. Always be cautious of contractors who require you to pay your bills up front, prior to starting your job. Once you have paid it becomes a civil issue for you to fight to have your work completed.
Always be extremely cautious when hiring someone from a website such as Craig’s list or Kijiji. These sites operate on a buyer beware policy and will offer no reimbursement if the deal falls through. Never pay upfront over the internet for services to be completed. Websites such as Kijiji and Craig’s list can be an excellent place to locate a potential service provider but always meet with the contractor in person and go through the proper steps to verify their credentials before hiring them to complete any work.
As mentioned before, the weather often plays a role in the types of scams we encounter throughout the year. As it gets warmer, the frequency of door-to-door frauds will typically increase. If someone comes to your door, claiming to represent a company or community organization, always ask to see their identification badge or supporting documentation before donating funds. If they do not have any there is a good chance that it is a scam. If they have an ID Badge but something still does not feel right you, do not allow yourself to be pressured into donating money and contact the Medicine Hat Police Service at 403-529-8481 to report the suspicious behavior.
As a general rule, when it comes to your money it is always good to be skeptical!
To learn more about common frauds and scams visit the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.