False Canadian Contractors: Buyer Beware!

false contractor

In many parts of Canada,  scams which involve fraudsters posing as building and construction contractors are a problem for residential and commercial property owners.

The latest known incident of this type of activity occurred in Hamilton, Ontario, on a road which saw construction work completed last year.

According to an official statement from the City, a business owner was approached by a ‘contractor’, who falsely implied that his company was contracted to undertake work as part of ongoing construction work, asking the business owner for an upfront payment as a deposit for the work.

“The contractor told the business owner that their driveway would need to be removed for the construction work and the property owner would be responsible for the cost of materials to replace the driveway once the work was completed,” the City’s statement read.

The statement went on to state the City had no affiliation with the so-called contractor.

“Before any construction project begins, the City’s protocol is to deliver notices on City letterhead to affected property owners to describe the scope of work and provide key contact information for City staff and the contractor,” the statement read.

The City says Public Works completed a project on the road concerned last year and that no further work was required.

It warned residents and business owners to exercise caution when approached by unsolicited private contractors and urged those with any concerns about contractors claiming to be working on City projects to contact the City itself.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident and, while seniors in residential areas are particularly targeted, any commercial or residential premises can be subject to such activity.

In a typical sales pitch, many scam artists – who target residential premises and whose work is often of poor quality if it is done at all, meaning that consumers end up paying more to fix a shoddy outcome – claim they were ‘in the neighbourhood’ and are therefore able to offer a reduced rate.

Wally Henry, media liaison with the Strathcona County RCMP, says the best way to stop unscrupulous contractors is through education, prevention and consumer awareness.

“It is important for homeowners to know their rights and the protections that exist so that they can be confident in the people they hire,” Henry says.

In the US, The Motley Fool investment web site lists 10 warning signs for property owners that may signal potential fraudulent tradespeople.

These include:

  • Scare tactics (saying that chimneys or other parts of the house are about to fall over)
  • Hasty quotes on large scale jobs
  • Lack of identification
  • Refusal to provide referrals
  • Pressure tactics (telling property owners that prices will only stay low if they sign straight away)
  • ‘In the neighbourhood’ statements
  • Demands for up-front payment
  • Refusal to provide written guarantees
  • ‘Cash only’ deals, whereby the contractor gives a ‘good deal’ for cash
  • Referral selling: promises of ‘special deals’ or ‘discounted’ prices if the property owner allows the contractor to show off their home as a ‘model’ of their work.

Above all, the site says, property owners should trust their instincts and remain cautious of any unsolicited approaches.

By Andrew Heaton
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