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Crime & Safety
Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Need A New Driveway? Look Out For Asphalt Paving Scams

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Better Business Bureau
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If your driveway needs paving or repairs, don’t trust just anyone to do the job. BBB Scam Tracker has numerous reports of unscrupulous contractors who trick homeowners with supposedly good deals. Homeowners end up with bad pavement - or nothing at all - to show for what they paid, and in some cases have lost over $8,000 in the process.

In this scam, a contractor leaves a pamphlet or shows up at the door. They claim they’ve been doing work in the area and just happened to notice the condition of your driveway or sidewalk. Since they're already working nearby, they can give you a discount. If the price is agreeable, they will then ask for a large percentage of the fee up front.

Once the transaction is complete, the scam contractor may disappear completely. The contact number or email may not work, quickly helping you realize that the contact information was a sham. If you protest, the contractor may use intimidation tactics, such as threatening a lawsuit, to convince you to pay up.

In other cases, the contractor work, once complete, is shoddy and unprofessional, but the full payment has been made. Reaching the company the contractor was allegedly representing is impossible, or another company was impostered in the process. In any of these scenarios, the chances of getting a refund or the work fixed are slim.

How to Avoid Contractor Scams

  1. Be wary of unsolicited offers. Most scams involving contractors begin when a random contractor makes an effort to go out of their way to offer an estimate that was never requested.

  2. Research companies and contractors before you hire. If the contractor has multiple negative reviews and complaints, don’t hire them. Often, a simple internet search will reveal companies or individuals that have been involved in fraudulent activities or provided unsatisfactory work to previous clients.

  3. Get everything in writing. Ask for an estimate in writing before payment is even discussed. Don’t let a contractor start working on a project until a written, signed contract outlining start and complete dates, a detailed description of the work to be provided, material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information is provided.

  4. Stagger payments. Most contractors will require a percentage of the total price up front, but it should never be the full price before the work has begun. Instead, make an agreement to stagger payments, so work can be inspected at various stages of the project.

  5. Use safe payment methods. Paying with a credit card provides some peace of mind, since the credit card company will help you if the company is fraudulent. If you use a check, write them out to a company, not an individual. Paying cash or using an electronic wallet app is risky, since there is no way to stop the payment or get cash back if anything goes wrong.