Attorney General Fox warns Montanans of paver scams

Attorney General Tim Fox and the Office of Consumer Protection at the Montana Department of Justice want to warn Montanans of a door-to-door ‘paver scam’ that has been seen recently in Great Falls and Helena. Here’s how it works:

A “contractor” will pull up in front of a consumer’s house, usually in an unmarked van or truck and will knock on the consumer’s door claiming they have leftover asphalt from another job they were working on nearby. The scammer will tell the homeowner that since they are going to use leftover material, they can offer a low price and sometimes a lifetime warranty on the paving or patching of the homeowner’s driveway.

The “contractor” will then complete the work, sometimes without getting approval from the homeowner first. Alternatively, the homeowner might agree to have some areas of the driveway patched, but the pavers end up resurfacing the entire driveway. However, they often use substandard material that does not harden to an acceptable strength and will simply peel away from the driveway over time. The scammers will then demand a much higher price than was agreed on, if a price was agreed on at all. The con artists can become very aggressive and try to pressure the homeowner into paying them immediately, sometimes even threatening to tear up the driveway.

Another version of this scam involves the con artists writing up a bid, asking for a portion of the payment as a “deposit,” and then never returning to do the work promised.

These cons are typically based outside of Montana and often move on to another community by the time the blacktop dries.

OCP’s investigators report a surge of consumer complaints about this type of scam in the past few weeks for the Great Falls area, and the past few days for the Helena area.

“As always, the best defense against these particular scam artists is education,” said Attorney General Fox. “Watch for some of the telltale signs of illegitimacy, such as a price quote that seems too good to be true, or a refusal to take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Tip-offs to “fly-by-night” paver or home improvement swindlers include:

· Arrival in an unmarked truck or van;

· Door-to-door contractors claiming “We’ve just finished a job nearby and have material left over so we can do your job for a deep discount;”

· High-pressure sales tactics;

· Refusal to provide a written estimate, contract or references;

· Very low bids; and

· The ability to “start tomorrow” on your project.

If you are approached by a contractor, ask for a business card that shows their registration and licensing information.

 “You can also verify they are registered to do business in Montana by searching for their company online at mtcontractor.com or by calling the Montana Department of Labor at (406) 444 – 7734,” said Attorney General Fox. “If you decide to move forward with paving, get a written description of the work to be done and the cost. And don’t be afraid to say no. This should be a practice even if you make the first contact. It’s also a good idea to get at least three estimates on any repair or construction work.”

 

Next steps

To report an attempted scam, call your local police department, or the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, or https://dojmt.gov/consumer/.

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