Unscrupulous contractors can create countless issues for the homeowners unlucky enough to be tricked into hiring their services, especially for large, expensive projects such as asphalt paving. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of homeowners who, after hiring a contractor to install or renovate their pavement, end up with unsatisfactory results or nothing at all.
Scammers are well-versed in presenting themselves as legitimate companies and will even claim to be accredited by Better Business Bureau to put consumers at ease. BBB recommends always verifying accreditation claims by checking their online Business Profile on BBB.org or contacting your local BBB office.
In late 2021, a Texas resident reported an asphalt paving company to BBB Scam Tracker after providing the contractor $5,000 for a project at their residence. Once payment cleared, the contractor “provided services with the verbal agreement they would provide a one-year warranty,” the consumer described. “When you have issues, they will not return calls or texts. They also said they would return three weeks after the project was complete to see if there were any issues. They have not come back.”
How the Scam Works
The contractor contacts the homeowner, either by leaving a pamphlet or going door-to-door, claiming that they have been doing work in the area and noticed the condition of the homeowner’s driveway or sidewalk. The contractor may claim that they are able to give a discount or use leftover material from a nearby job site to reduce the price of the project. Often, the upfront cost or deposit requested by the contractor is a significantly higher percentage than is typical. Most deposits for contracting services should average between 10-30% of the total project price unless a clearly communicated issue requires a more significant payment.
Once you have paid for the services, asphalt paving scams progress down three main paths:
Contractor disappears. Immediately after cashing your check or receiving payment through other means, the contractor simply vanishes. Provided contact numbers or emails go unanswered and there is no ability to get your money back.
Unprofessional results. In many cases, the contractor conducts the work, but the end results are unprofessional, short-term and ineffective. The contractor may fail to install the asphalt properly, creating an unstable and poorly packed driveway that degrades significantly after the first heavy rainstorm. This may cause rocks and other chemicals to wash into your yard, impacting its growth and health or damaging the tires of your vehicle when driving across the asphalt.
No follow-up service or warranty. Claiming that the project is under warranty for a specific amount of time helps homeowners feel confident that any issues that arise will be taken care of by the contractor. Unfortunately, when contacting the company for follow-up service, the company fails to deliver on its promise causing the homeowner to contact another company to conduct the repairs.
Con artists often disguise themselves as legitimate, well-known companies to convince wary consumers that they are protected in their investment. When attempting to contact the company that the contractor represented, the homeowner discovers that the company has no record of the contractor who conducted the work or sold the project.
How to avoid asphalt paving scams
Be wary of unsolicited offers. Most contractor scams begin with a random encounter, where a contractor goes out of their way to offer an estimate on a job that was never requested. While door-to-door sale tactics are used by legitimate businesses, it is important to exercise more caution when interacting with them to ensure you are not dealing with a scam.
Research companies and contractors. Use BBB.org and other services that allow you to read reviews, ratings and complaints of the company or contractor before paying any money. Often, a simple internet search will reveal companies or individuals that have been involved in fraudulent activities or provided unsatisfactory work to previous clients.
Get everything in writing. Demand and expect estimates to be in writing before payment is even discussed. Do not allow a contractor to begin work until a written and signed contract is provided to you and includes, at a minimum, start and complete dates, a detailed description of the work to be provided, material costs, payment arrangements and warranty information.
Stagger payments. Most contractors require a percentage of the total price upfront, but it should never be the full price of the project. BBB recommends staggering payments over the expected length of the project, so the homeowner has the ability to inspect the work at various stages. If unfamiliar with the process, ask questions and have the contractor describe what they are doing in detail. Be wary of any contractor that requires greater than 50% of the total cost of the project upfront.
Use safe payment methods. Credit cards provide greater protections for recovering lost money if dealing with a fraudulent company than debit cards or wire transfers. If paying by check, it should be paid to a company, not an individual.