Scam Alert Directed to Contractors and Persons with Homes for Sale
The Set Up
I was contacted via text by a person looking to get an estimate for renovation work on his home. He conveyed that he had just purchased a home in Edmonton Alberta and needed to have the roof replaced. He provided the address of the home and an email address to forward the proposal to.
I personally went to the house to inspect the roof and gather the data
We promptly drafted the estimate, and sent it to the gentleman via email. Within 10 minutes we received a text from the person stating he would like to go ahead with the proposed work. I replied asking him to sign and date the proposal and to email it back to us. I also requested that we would like to meet him on site before work was to commence. He replied stating that he wants us to go ahead with the work, but was unable to meet with us as he was out of the country due to “health care issues”.
The Red Flag Starts Waving
This immediately raised red flags, and we decided to do some research. Fortunately, while on site I took a picture of the Realtor’s sign which had a phone number. I called the realtor Michelle Patterson Nipp of Realty Executives. I told her that the new home owner “Josh Lawrence” had contacted me to get a roof proposal for the home she was selling, but
I did a search of the number which sent us the text: 407-216-4876. It was a protected number not showing the owner’s name from Florida. I called the number and got an automated voice response which stated this was a “text only” phone number.
The Counter Move
I sent a text to “Josh”, asking him to give me a call so we can proceed with the work. He replied saying he would call in a few minutes from another number. As the phone rang, I decided to play along to gather as much information as possible.
The number was 765-997-8128 from Indiana. The gentleman who called himself Josh, spoke with a very heavy accent, one I guessed to be Ethiopian. He advised me that he had cancer and was in the USA receiving treatment, but needed his leaking roof replaced immediately before his family moved in. Unfortunately, he would not be able to meet with me before work commenced, but would pay as soon as the work was completed. I asked if he would be paying by cheque or credit card. He replied saying that when the work was complete, if I provide him with a bank account number that he would promptly deposit the funds into our account. I said that we could do this for him.
I asked him if it was he or his wife that planted the beautiful new rose bushes around the property (there weren’t any). He said his loving wife planted them as she loves flowers.
He Realises the Scam is over
I could no longer carry on with the gentleman. I told him: “I do have a problem, I contacted the realtor of that home who informed us that in fact the home has not been sold and she had never heard of a Mr, Josh Lawrence. He promptly replied that he must have given the wrong address to me. He paused for a few seconds, then hung up the phone.
Be Aware of Their Tactics
Renovation Contractors and persons with vacant homes for sale must now beware. Scam artists are searching “For Sale” home directories for properties for sale. They may even have local partners that visit the site to ensure the property is vacant. Hire a contractor to perform exterior renovations to the home as entrance or access to the home is not required. When the work is complete, in an effort to get paid for the renovation, the contractor provides bank account information which the scammer can then use to empty the company’s bank account.
In our case, the renovation was to cost over $6000. If we would have fallen for the scam, we would have been out the $6000 and may have had our company bank account emptied in the process.
How to Avoid being Targeted
Home owners with homes for sale/vacant should put a note on the front door stating “Contractors call (your phone number) before estimating or starting any work”. This may help avoid the possible fraud these con artists are attempting to pull off.
I hope this article saves anyone that may be a potential victim of these criminals.
L. Allen Shaw
A. Shaw Roofing