Police in Los Altos are warning residents to be on the lookout for a driveway repair scam that has recently been making the rounds of the Bay Area.
The scammers will often target elderly residents, offering to repair or seal-coat driveways, police said.
They will give victims a verbal estimate without providing a written estimate or a written contract. The scammers will use few tools and low-grade materials to complete or partially complete a sub-par job, police said.
They then demand a cash-only payment that may be significantly larger than the original verbal estimate, police said. The loss in such scams can amount to thousands of dollars, according to police.
Authorities urge residents to be aware of the warning signs of the scam:
-- Selling door-to-door: Reputable and licensed contractors will rarely solicit work by walking door-to-door. Always ask for a contractor license number and for references even if they sound and look professional (construction vests/clothing).
-- Leftover materials: Professional and licensed contractors will know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed to complete a project. Rarely will they have leftover materials.
-- Pressured to make a quick decision: Reputable and licensed contractors will provide a written estimate that will be valid for weeks or months. If the great deal they are offering today is not available tomorrow or next week it may be a scam.
-- No contract offered: Insist upon a written contract specifying in detail, the work to be performed and the agreed upon price.
-- Cash-only sales: Most reputable and licensed contractors will accept checks or credit cards and will not require cash-only payments.
-- Too good to be true deals: If the estimated price seems very low, chances are the quality of the work will also be quite low and you will typically be up-charged upon completion of the job.
-- Unmarked truck: The trucks utilized by the subjects will often me unmarked or they will have an out of town address, phone number and/or license plate. A little research will reveal that they have no permanent address (typically will use an address associated to UPS store type business) and the phone number is regularly changed.
Anyone encountering a situation believed to be a scam - or anyone who has fallen victim to a scam -- is asked to call the Los Altos Police Department at (650) 947-2770 and report the situation.