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  Summertime Scams Prey on the Elderly

Jul 14, 2008 12:57 ET

The Durham Regional Police Service would like to advise citizens, especially senior citizens, of several ongoing scams that have cost local residents thousands of dollars.

An 82-year-old man from Bowmanville reported that he was approached by an asphalt-paving contractor to pave his driveway. The contractor convinced him that the job would cost $14,000 and even drove the victim to his bank to get the money. The job was completed but at a substantially higher fee than the anticipated price of that particular job (about $2,000).

The vast majority of contractors are legitimate business people. However, every summer, the DRPS receives a few complaints about improper business practices and fraud. Other home improvement contractors have convinced citizens to provide a substantial down payment before repairing their roofs, dry walling rooms or doing other work. Once the large down payment is received, the contractor never returns.

Not only are these fraudulent business practices, they are often targeted at senior citizens, who sometimes feel intimidated or unsure of other options they have.

A down payment of about 10 per cent is acceptable business practice when working with many tradespeople. The balance of the payment should be made once the job is complete and the homeowner is satisfied with the quality of the job. Other helpful hints include:

* Ask contractors for references and contact them to talk to other customers
* Do not make a decision immediately no matter how much of a “deal” is offered at the time
* Get at least three comparable quotes from different contractors to ensure the best price
* Protect yourself with a detailed written contract
* Discuss terms of payment up front so there is no misunderstanding
* If the contractor leaves an old ladder and some scraps of wood behind after an initial or second visit, it doesn’t not mean he/she will ever return
* Don’t invite “cold call” contractors into your home

For more information about good business practices when working with contractors or sales people, please visit:

* The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services has excellent information about hiring contractors as well as details about the Ontario Consumer Protection Act
* PhoneBusters, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Call Centre is a valuable source of information regarding how to identify and report fraudulent activity.
* The Canadian Council of Better Business Bureaus also has detailed consumer advice on dealing with home repairs and improvements.

For more information about protecting yourself please visit the Safety Tips section at

Preventing the abuse of elderly citizens is one of the top strategic priorities of the DRPS and is identified in our current Business Plan. Anyone with information about fraudulent activity involving seniors and paving companies is asked to contact the Major Crime, Fraud Unit at 1-888-579-1520 ext. 5283.

Anonymous tips can be made to Durham Regional Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) and tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000.

Below are attached files.
roofing thumb (JPG file, 44.5K bytes)