Snow jobs: How seniors can avoid winter weather scams
It's not just kids getting a snow day off from school who enjoy taking advantage of the wintry weather we've been having recently. Snow, ice and freezing temperatures also provide a perfect climate for con men and unscrupulous contractors to take advantage of the elderly, who can't get out to shovel their own driveways, according to local police. While this year's snow totals haven't reached last year's record-breaking inch count, there is plenty enough to offer shady scam artists peddling snow plowing and removal services to take advantage of senior citizens. Local police and social service officials agreed this week that older residents should be on guard.
During prolonged periods of winter weather, con men can hard sell elderly residents on any number of scams, including collecting money for snow removal services they never provide or gouging frightened customers to knock snow off roofs when the inches pile up, police said.
An overly aggressive contractor at your door seeking immediate agreement to remove snow is a sign of trouble, said New Canaan Police Sgt. Carol Ogrinc, a spokeswoman for the New Canaan Police.
Homeowners should do their research and hire a licensed roofer or professional to conduct such work, Ogrinc said.
The state Department of Consumer Protection and AARP have offered in the past to help consumers be selective and discern between honest contractors and scamsters performing snow removal services. Tips include:
Contact the Department of Consumer Protection to verify the contractor is licensed.
Always get estimates in writing. If necessary, write out verbally the scope of services for snow and ice removal and the price and have the contractor sign it.
Verify that the plow or snow removal company you are hiring for the season is licensed and has a track record for previous years. Seek references you know for a contractor you are considering.
Get written estimates from several contractors and check each company's Better Business Bureau Reliability Report. Avoid contractors who've been the subject of numerous complaints or who are not listed at all.