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Close the door on asphalt scammers offering ‘extra materials’

The Better Business Bureau sees a spike in “asphalt scams” every spring. Right on cue, we received a report this week of a Treasure Valley family losing more than $5,000 to what they thought was a company that would help fix their driveway.

This con usually involves a sales representative visiting your home claiming to have leftover materials from a previous paving job. He is looking for homes with cracked driveways. He says he can take care of your driveway for a big discount.

Typically, the representative asks you to pay up front. From there, consumers have complained to BBB about multiple issues.

In many complaints, the “contractor” does the work, but the quality is poor and the homeowner is left with a crumbling driveway in even worse shape. In other situations the company starts the job, leaves for the night and never returns, leaving the victim with a mess. If the company does return, it has a multitude of reasons why the price is now higher to finish the job.

Consumers often are not given the name of the company, a business card or contact information, making it difficult to get assistance when the deal turns sour. Without an agreement in writing, the consumer has no way to prove the contractor’s promise to complete the job.

This scheme often comes in the form of driveway repair, but there have been similar reports from a variety of contractors. To protect your property and your money, watch for red flags.

▪  You are pushed to make a quick decision. A trustworthy contractor will provide a written estimate that will be valid for days or even weeks. It should specify in detail the work to be performed and the total price. The contractor also won’t mind you checking out the company before signing a contract.

▪  Cash-only sales. Most reputable contractors will take checks or credit cards and don’t require payment up front. BBB recommends never paying more than one-third ahead of time, and only with a written contract.

▪  Verbal agreements only. Get everything in writing. Ask for a contract with a description of materials, labor, start and completion dates, business name, address and phone number.

If someone shows up at your door, be sure to ask for a card and let the contractor know you’ll call if you are interested. This gives you the chance to do your research.

Consider searching both the business name and contact information. Some repeat offenders change the company name.

If you suspect you are dealing with a scammer, report it to your local police department and the BBB.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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