06/23/09 — City officials remind homeowners to use caution when hiring contractor for repairs

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City officials remind homeowners to use caution when hiring contractor for repairs

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on June 23, 2009 1:46 PM

Buyer beware: it's scamming season.

Unlicensed contractors are out in force for the summer, and city Inspections Director Ed Cianfarra is sending a warning to residents that if an offer to repair your driveway or rain gutters sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"This time of the year, you are going to have people who are going to knock on your doors," Cianfarra said. "They take advantage of especially the elderly, they paint a very bad picture, 'your house is going to fall down.'"

They might attempt to scare people because many citizens don't know how to tell if something is wrong with the structure of a house.

"Do not allow your lack of knowledge to be manipulated. There are other resources out there to find out," Cianfarra said.

When a person knocks at the door attempting to sell something, don't be fooled or forced into buying something from them immediately, he said. Many of the scammers try to use high-pressure tactics to make a quick sale, but the home owner could later regret it, and lose a lot of money.

People might think they are getting a good deal on an alarm system or a new driveway, but the asphalt could be scrap that is not up to code, and there might not be anything wrong with the house at all.

"If they knock on the door, you need to do a lot more investigation than if you opened up the yellow pages and called someone," Cianfarra said. "You need to make doubly sure that that is a reputable company, that the person is licensed, insured, and can do the work that you may let him do."

Three people in Goldsboro have been scammed so far this year, but it's just the beginning of the season.

"No matter what they tell you, how good a deal it is, call a competitor company and get a second bid. Simple as that," Cianfarra said. "But right now we've already had a couple of situations in Goldsboro. ... It happens every spring, and I see it because I'm called out there, or my staff is called out there to investigate it."

If a suspicious seller comes hawking his services, take a moment to give the inspections department a call. Every contractor in Goldsboro must be licensed to perform work in the city, and the business licenses are kept on record. If a contractor does not have a business license, chances are they are from out of the state and could be trying to conduct a scam, Cianfarra said.

Ask for a driver's license or other identification, and when possible, keep an eye out to help safeguard neighbors as well.

"Everybody needs to be aware not only what is happening in your house, but what is happening at your neighbor's house," Cianfarra said. "Tell your friends, tell everybody, be aware of who that contractor is who comes to your house."