The most common scam that occurs in Hernando County regarding handyman/repairs is:
Florida is HOT so it is no surprise that this is a common complaint area. There are several things that YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF!
AIR CONDITIONING FRAUD!
- NEVER accept the 1st estimate!!!! No matter what story you are told or how hard the salesman tries to pressure you DO NOT accept the 1st estimate!!! The economy is horrible so I can guarantee you that there are enough businesses out there that you can get a better price.
- If you feel that you are the victim of HIGH PRESSURE SALES TACTICS or INTIMIDATION call 911! The Sheriff’s Office will be MORE THAN HAPPY to help you remove these people from your home! So PLEASE call us, if they will not leave on their own.
- You will be told things like: This is the best price I can offer you and my boss says if you don’t take it RIGHT NOW we can’t offer you this same price later. THIS IS A MAJOR RED FLAG, what reputable company would do this?
- You be told let me go outside and call my boss to see I can get the price lower MAJOR RED FLAG why can’t he make that call in front of you? Because he’s going outside to call his girlfriend and tell her how much he loves her and how he’s gonna take her out to dinner after he RIPS YOU OFF! Then when he comes in he tells you about the pretend conversation he had and his boss is going to let him knock money off the estimate if you accept RIGHT NOW!! DON’T DO IT!! IT’S A TRICK! If his price was low enough on the 1st estimate he wouldn’t need to lower it. This is a CLUE that it’s time to move on to another company.
- UV LIGHTS do have some legitimate use and serve some purpose. They do not cost THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars. Some UV lights are as cheap as a few hundred dollars however companies are charging EXTREMELY HIGH prices. This is NOT ILLEGAL so it is important that you GET A SECOND OPINION before installing one. This device is not vital and there is NO REASON you need to have it done immediately. Take your time to think about it and talk with a trusted friend or family member before spending a large sum of money on something that MAY NOT be needed.
- If you have a contract with a company for a FREE inspection once or twice a year and every time they come you end up paying HUNDREDS or THOUSANDS of dollars you may want to get a second opinion.
- If your system has been running fine and suddenly you are being told that your system isn’t working, this is a MAJOR RED FLAG. Make sure you get a second opinion. If your system suddenly stops working after an inspection, DO NOT CALL THE SAME COMPANY back to check it. Past criminal investigations have proven that employees have sabotaged equipment to force customers to purchase a new system. Call a different company and TELL THEM NOTHING when they check your system let them find the problem and report it to you.
- GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING! Some employees are paid COMMISSION to sell you things you may or may not need. DO NOT let them tell you what they think MAKE THEM WRITE IT. In cases of fraud the sheriff’s office CANNOT MAKE AN ARREST unless there is evidence that you were defrauded. The employees WRITTEN estimate of work that is NOT NEEDED is the best evidence. If they won’t put everything in writing, this is a MAJOR RED FLAG!
- PLEASE HELP YOUR ELDERLY FAMILY FRIENDS, FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS! These types of crimes normally target elderly residents and widows.
- If you think you are being scammed and you don’t call until after the fraudulent repair has been completed there is a strong chance that the Sheriff’s Office will not be able to prove a crime occurred. It is important that we get involved during the fraud, not after, because the suspect will remove the alleged faulty equipment and there is no way we can prove that it did not need replacing.
SHERIFF’S OFFICE WILL CONTINUE TO DO UNDERCOVER STING OPERATIONS TO ATTEMPT TO CATH THESE FRAUDULENT CONTRACTORS AND THEIR EMPLOYEES IN THE ACT.
THERE ARE SO MANY MORE THINGS TO LOOK FOR BUT HOPEFULLY THESE ARE ENOUGH TIPS TO HELP KEEP YOU SAFE FROM FRAUD
The majority of the information listed above can be applied to any contract for repair and/or home improvement. Please protect yourself and never accept the 1st estimate on any repair/improvement.
Tree Work/Landscaper/Home improvements
In the past the Sheriff’s Office has conducted investigations into these professions because certain criminals pose as legitimate workers to gain access to your home and your finances.
- DO NOT pay any money until the work is completed. Any legitimate businessman should be able to conduct normal jobs without requiring to be paid 1st.
- DO NOT allow subjects into your home if it can be avoided. In past cases more than one subject enters your home and one distracts while the other steals from you.
- DO NOT allow subjects to use your bathroom. In past cases subjects have rummaged through medicine cabinets and drawers stealing medication and other items of value.
- DO NOT give someone a check without completing the payee section. In past investigations checks have been altered to much higher amounts and cashed by other 3rd party subjects which can make it difficult to identify the suspect(s).
- DO NOT allow subjects to utilize your personal equipment (i.e. lawn mower, ladder, chain saw etc) to complete work at your property. If they don’t have their own equipment that is a clue that they are not legitimate business. This means they do not have insurance and any injury they may suffer could subject you to a lawsuit.
- MAKE SURE any contractor you hire has a license (if required) and insurance. Make sure you get a copy of the insurance policy and call the insurer to make sure the policy has not been cancelled. In past investigations suspects have provided completely false insurance certificates. Call the Hernando County Building Department to see if work being completed requires a permit and/or license (352-754-4050) DO NOT take the contractors word for it if you have any doubts.
- If your work is being completed on a “Draw Schedule” (meaning the contractor gets a specific portion at specific phases of work) DO NOT pay money that has not been earned. Paying before a draw is due could be a sign that the contractor is having financial difficulty and may be a clue that your job may not be completed even though you paid for it.
Unlicensed contracting is a misdemeanor for a first offense in Florida. If a state of emergency has been declared unlicensed contracting is a felony for a first offense in Florida, F.S.S. 489.125. Money stolen through knowingly and fraudulently unlicensed contracting can be charged as theft F.S.S. 812.014 or organized fraud F.S.S. 817.034