Phony contractor offers to "seal" roof
An Austin Senior recently contacted us to report a close call with a "painting contractor" who offered to "seal" her new roof for the cost of materials only. When the homeowner asked why the roof was not sealed by the roofer, the painter claimed that the new roof needed to "cure" first. He let on that he had some connection with the roofing company. He performed the work the next day (or so he said) in the homeowner's absence with a crew of six men – in the rain. He then presented a bill for $2400.
Fortunately, the consumer had the presence of mind to demand a "properly made out bill," which the painter could not produce. When questioned more closely, the painter admitted that he had no connection with the roofing company. Faced with increasing suspicion, the painter gave up and left the premises. The consumer reported the entire incident to the roofer, who said he had never heard of the painter, and who encouraged the consumer to make a report to the police and to us.
We continue to caution consumers, especially seniors, about home improvement contractors who approach them door-to-door with special offers. Check references, get everything in writing, and be skeptical of special deals that require an on-the-spot decision. We have heard from consumers who have ended up losing thousands of dollars for work they didn't really need in the first place.
ABOUT CONSUMER ALERTS - The Office of the Attorney General accepts consumer complaints about businesses. When a pattern of complaints warrants intervention, the Attorney General can file a civil lawsuit under consumer protection statutes, sometimes with the result that a company is required to pay restitution to consumers -- see our Major Lawsuits page. However, when a consumer is swindled by a con artist, filing a complaint cannot help. Civil litigation can sometimes put a very unscrupulous business out of action, but often cannot produce restitution.
Individual con artists generally fall under the jurisdiction of a criminal prosecutor -- in Texas, this is the district or county attorney. But even when they are charged and convicted, these individuals usually have spent the money as fast as they have stolen it. A person who is the victim of fraud should report the incident to the police or sheriff. But by far the best thing is for consumers to be aware of fraud, so they are not swindled in the first place. For this reason, the Office of the Attorney General posts these Consumer Alerts about possible scams and schemes that come to our attention through citizen contacts to our office or other sources.