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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > June 2020 > Watch Out for Home Improvement Scammers

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Watch Out for Home Improvement Scammers

As outside temperatures heat up, Ohioans will no doubt be faced with decisions for home improvement projects ranging from staining decks to installing new roofs. Unfortunately, some contractors prove to be less than reputable. It’s important that you do your homework before approving any contractor improvements to your home. This includes getting more than one estimate and asking for contact information of prior customers who can vouch for the contractor’s work.
Home improvement scammers often ask for large down payments but simply take the money and run, leaving homeowners with no repairs and no refunds. Then, they usually move on to another customer to repeat their scheme.

Some bad contractors may start a significant project only to stop their work without any notice, leaving a job unfinished. They may try to stall with false promises to finish the job, or they may ignore phone calls altogether. Others may simply perform shoddy work, leaving homeowners with projects that need to be completely redone.
In February, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office announced 70 criminal charges against a home improvement contractor in southeast Ohio, who allegedly stole more than $400,000 from homeowners, including four elderly victims. Patrick Wilson, of Morgan County, allegedly accepted large down payments from clients to buy building materials for decks, pole barns, garages and houses, but he never delivered the supplies, completed the work or refunded the money. A total of 34 people from Ohio and West Virginia say they lost a combined $412,000 to Wilson from January 2017 through June 2019.

Follow these tips to help avoid becoming a scammer’s next victim:
  • Before signing a contract or making a payment, check a company’s reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Conduct an internet search for the business and the names of individuals involved.
  • Do not make a large down payment. Instead, pay in increments – for example, one-third at the beginning of the job, one-third after half of the work is completed to your satisfaction and one-third when the job is completed.
  • Avoid paying in cash. It leaves you with a limited paper trail when something goes wrong.
  • Get any promises the contractor makes in writing.
  • Be cautious of contractors who want payment made out to themselves as individuals, instead of a company.
  • Understand that Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act provides consumers with a three-day cancellation period for most contracts signed at their own home, including many home improvement contracts. The law also applies to contracts signed at any location that is not a company’s normal place of business (such as a home improvement show).
  • Look for the red flags of a traveling scam artist. If a contractor claims to have leftover materials from a nearby job or offers unbelievably low prices, be suspicious.  
Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.