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Contractor scams on the rise as lumber prices continue to skyrocket

Dos and don'ts when dealing with home improvement and contractor scammers.
Credit: AP
Workers carry lumber as they prepare to do maintenance on the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal, in Panama City, Thursday, August 1, 2019. In the Miraflores locks, vessels are lifted, or lowered 54 ft in two stages, allowing them to transit to or from the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Eric Batista)

ABILENE, Texas — From painting a new room to modeling a living space, the price of lumber materials continue to rise; however, there have been instances where contractors are advertising with low prices, but that doesn't always mean the job will be done. 

An arrest report from the Abilene Police Department Monday said a local contractor was reported for taking a payment of more than $40,000 without doing any of the work. The person who reported this incident said they are willing to pursue charges, and the investigation is currently under investigation.

Contractors, for the most part, have higher prices caused by the pandemic and higher costs for materials. However, there are instances where contractors are posting lower prices. What home-building experts said is expected around the spring and summer months. Chances are you have encountered a contractor scam.

"General contracting and home improvements in general, inquiries increase so do the number of complaints we get," John Riggins, Better Business Bureau of Abilene president, said.  

According to Riggins, the most prominent red flag is when someone asks for an advanced down payment. 

"It's time to do a lot of homework at that point. You need to know you know, where is this company located? Where are they going to be when you need them 18 months from now when the roof is leaking? What's their track record?," he said. 

The BBB also suggests one do their research for price points as this is another red flag. 

"Selling at a low price can be somebody who is not experienced enough and hasn't looked at lumber prices lately, or it could be somebody just trying to get an advance fee from you. So, knowing their track record is paramount at that point," Riggins said. 

The Better Business Bureau in San Angelo suggests that one continue to do their homework, especially regarding those who go door-to-door to solicit services. 

"If they are doing door-to-door solicitation here in San Angelo, they have to register with our police department, and that's the San Angelo Police Department, and they have to have a permit that they carry on them at all time. So they have to produce it if you ask for it. So you definitely should ask for a permit if somebody is going door-to-door," Glenna Friedrich, San Angelo Better Business Bureau president, said. 

The Better Business Bureaus in Abilene and San Angelo highly recommend people consider the following when hiring a contractor: 

  • Compare cost before making a financial commitment toward any home improvement project. 
  • Do not automatically choose the lowest price. 
  • Ask the remodeling contractor for local references and find out if the customers were actually satisfied with the contractor's work. 
  • Find out if the contractor is a member of the local homebuilders association.
  • Big Country Home Builders Association: 325-698-4232
  • Home Builders Association of San Angelo: 325-949-0140
  • You can also call your local Better Business Bureau to determine how long the contractor has been in business and to get more information and details on their reliability report.
  • Business Bureau Abilene: 325-691-1533
  • Better Business Bureau San Angelo: 325-949-2989

You can learn more from the BBB about hiring a reliable and trustworthy contractor online here. 

You can report scams to the BBB by clicking this link.