County officials warn homeowners against remodeling doom

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Homeowner Sabrina Young is getting her house on Grider Street remodeled inside and out.  Young says, it took a lot of research as she whittled down a list of ten would-be contractors before settling on the company that got the job.

“It took me about three months, it took me a while. I was really researching.  It took me a long time before I decide who I was going to choose.”

Erie County officials cited Young, a Buffalo grandmother, as a prime example of how to go about hiring a contractor for a home improvement project
    
Sheriff Tim Howard and County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw say with the warm weather upon us,  many Western New Yorkers are looking to start remodeling, and the best weapon for fighting scams is avoiding them altogether. 

Howard and Mychajliw said home improvement ripoffs can come in many forms, and the targets are mostly the elderly, with the con artist always using some form of a high pressure sales pitch to get your money, and then they are gone.

Mychajliw talked about a typical complaint he gets from those older consumers, “Someone came up with a pickup truck and he had shingles in the back, and said ‘hey, for $100 I can fix your leaky roof,’ and they offered me cash, and he wanted to do the job, and I was afraid, and I did not know what to do.”

Sheriff Howard said with so much money at stake, consumers should take their time before making a decision, as Sabrina Young did.

“Don’t make any deals today. Come back and see me tomorrow, gives you an opportunity to follow up. Again, dialing that phone number, see who answers it.”

Cheektowaga contractor Domenic Cortese, president of Cortese Construction said, once a con artist gets your money, a consumer has few options for getting it back.

Even if the homeowner takes the scammer to court and wins the case Cortese warns, you still won’t get your money back.

“Because in most cases, those people are ‘judgment proof’ and there is no way to even collect a dime out of them because they completely have nothing in their name.”

The top piece of advice county officials and consumer watchdogs offer when you are hiring a contractor, or making a big ticket purchase–never pay cash.

If the money is spent, even the threat of jail can’t compet a contractor to give the money back, but using a credit or debit card can result in a “charge back”, if the cardholder can show the money was misappropriated.    

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