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Wisconsin homeowners urged to check on contractors

Wisconsin homeowners should be on the lookout for unauthorized home repair scams, according to state officials. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has issued a warning that scam artists are busy in the wake of major storms, often targeting areas hard-hit by tornadoes and other disasters. While they may sometimes be charged with federal crimes if caught, these rip-off artists are usually impossible to locate and leave homeowners with no recourse against them.

Many of these fake contractors go door-to-door offering to repair driveways, siding, painting or roofing. They offer very attractive prices but do poor work or use substandard materials. Even worse, some demand upfront payment in order for the homeowner to secure a good rate, then disappear with the money.

Some of these scam artists are also thieves and will steal homeowners' valuable items from indoors if they have a chance. A favorite scam is to offer a 'free" home inspection during which one worker will keep the homeowners' attention while another steals valuables. A variation on this routine is for one worker to get the homeowners outside to 'inspect" a roof or the paint on the exterior of the home while an accomplice enters the home and steals valuables. Homeowners should call the police immediately if anyone shows up and does work on their property without permission or if they have any suspicions about a contractor.

One of the problems associated with unauthorized or scam-artist contractors is that legitimate business people are sometimes targeted for criminal charges. This means that a real contractor may be charged with a crime mistakenly. A criminal defense attorney may represent those charged with these types of crimes.

Source: Today's TMJ 4, "Alert for Wisconsin homeowners about home repair fraud", June 01, 2013

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