Unscrupulous contractors can create countless issues for the homeowners unlucky enough to be tricked into hiring their services, especially for large, expensive projects such as asphalt paving. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of homeowners who, after hiring a contractor to install or renovate their pavement, end up with unsatisfactory results or nothing at all.
Last month, one Texas resident reported an asphalt paving scam where the contractor “claims they have leftover asphalt that they want to get rid of for free and will topcoat your driveway at their cost. They insisted on being paid in cash and the invoice was entirely handwritten. When I asked for a business card, they told me they would mail one to me.”
How the Scam Works
The contractor contacts the homeowner, either by leaving a pamphlet or going door-to-door, claiming that they have been doing work in the area and noticed to condition of your driveway or sidewalk. Much like “free” roof inspections scams, the contractor may claim that they are able to give a discount or use leftover material from a nearby jobsite to reduce the price of conducting the repair or installation at your residence. Often, the upfront price requested by the contractor is a significantly higher percentage of the total cost than is typical.
Once you have paid for the services, the scam progresses down two main paths:
Contractor disappears. Immediately after cashing your check or receiving payment through other means, the contractor simply vanishes. Provided contact numbers or emails go unanswered and, in some cases, the contractor may threaten legal action if you refuse to pay the requested amount.
Unprofessional results. In many cases, the contractor conducts the work, but the end results are unprofessional, short-term and ineffective. The contractor may fail to install the asphalt properly, creating an unstable and poorly packed driveway that degrades significantly after the first heavy rainstorm. This may cause rocks and other chemicals to wash into your yard, impacting its growth and health or damage the tires of your vehicle when driving across the asphalt.
When attempting to contact the company that the contractor represented, either the homeowner will be unsuccessful or discover that the company has no record of the contractor who conducted the work. Con artists often use the guise of a legitimate, well-known company to convince wary consumers that they are protected in their investment.
How to avoid Asphalt Paving Scams
Be wary of unsolicited offers. Most contractor scams begin with a random encounter, where a contractor goes go out of their way to offer an estimate on a job that was never requested. While door-to-door sale tactics are used by legitimate businesses, it is important to exercise more caution when interacting with them to ensure you are not dealing with a scam.
Research companies and contractors. Use BBB.org and other services that allow you to read reviews, ratings and complaints of the company or contractor before paying any money. Often, a simple internet search will reveal companies or individuals that have been involved in fraudulent activities or provided unsatisfactory work to previous clients.
Get everything in writing. Demand and expect estimates to be in writing before payment is even discussed. Do not allow a contractor to begin work until a written, signed contract is provided to you and includes, at a minimum, start and complete dates, a detailed description of the work to be provided, material costs, payment arrangements and warranty information.
Stagger payments. Most contractors require a percentage of the total price upfront, but it should never be the full price of the project. BBB recommends staggering payments over the expected length of the project, so the homeowner has the ability to inspect the work at various stages. If unfamiliar with the process, ask questions and have the contractor describe what they are doing in detail.
Use safe payment methods. Credit cards provide greater protection for recovering lost money if dealing with a fraudulent company than debit cards or wire transfers. If paying by check, it should be paid to a company, not an individual.
Use BBB.org to search for paving companies in your area.
For more tips on how to hire a reliable and trustworthy contractor, visit BBB.org.
If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker. Information provided could prevent another person from falling victim.