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Seniors: Watch Out For Every Salesman, Contractor (Part I)

Seniors: check out every salesman or contractor before you allow them in your home (this is part one).

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Operation False Comfort.” This was the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s arrest of salesmen who allegedly swindled over 152 local seniors of their savings. How could so many seniors trust a group of crooks?

AARP has conducted many studies showing how, and why, seniors are so easily duped. There are even blogs devoted to the topic of Elder Abuse.

But are seniors unfairly labeled as being incompetent? What about the CHOP researcher named Melissa Ketunuti who was murdered last week by an exterminator she hired. Actually, she hired another exterminator who subcontracted the work to the murderer. 

I even have my own tale and you would think that of all people I would know better. It started after my wife and I purchased window coverings from a local major home retail store. The offer of “whole house installation for less than $200” induced us to spend a few thousand dollars on new window coverings.  

I grew suspicious after meeting the installer assigned to our project. First, he said that since he was only a subcontractor, he could not help us resolve a problem with one defective covering. Then he was out sick for several weeks, yet the installer did not send another employee to finish the job. 

Due to the wisdom that goes along with age, I decided to check further. I called the retailer to find the name of the company performing their installations. They gave me the name of a company in Bensalem. They also assured me that everyone in the company was insured and bonded and vetted. I checked the company on the Attorney General’s Home Improvement Database, and they seemed okay. Still skeptical, I asked our investigator to look a little further. What happened next may surprise and frighten you, as much as it did me. I'll write about it in my next post.

Stay well until the next post,

Bob Gasparro

Bob Gasparro is an Elder Practitioner (accountant and attorney). He can be reached at Robert.Gasparro@lifespanlegal.com or (484) 297-2050. Comments to this post, and ideas for future posts are welcome.

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Carol Ann January 29, 2013 at 03:17 AM
How about encouraging seniors to talk to their neighbors when they need to shop for a service or product? Often a recommendation from a satisfied customer will smooth the way for a reputable contractor. ............... How about publishing the names and contact info for the local, area, regional, or county senior centers, department of aging, and/or other senior assistance organizations?
Carol Ann January 29, 2013 at 03:26 AM
I am a senior homeowner. Whenever I talk to a prospective contractor, I tell them, I want a couple of references I can call to find out how those customers liked their work. I tell them, IF they cannot bring a Certificate of Insurance, with my name and address as "Certificate Holder", they should NOT bother to show up. I also have my own business. All my rates and terms are published on my website and I never take a dime until the job is completed. ................... I never hire a contractor, repair person, or anybody that does NOT have their company name on their vehicle, cannot produce a valid Certificate of Insurance, will not allow me to copy their license info., or other way I might validate they are legitimate. ..................... I also stay away from General Contractors. In my experience, all they do is set up a job and then hire subcontractors to perform the actual work. Why should I pay a middle man?
Carol Ann January 29, 2013 at 03:34 AM
My rule of thumb when strangers knock on my door: - First, if I don't know someone, I never let them inside. I will tell them, hang on, let me get a coat, and I will talk to them outside. OR, if I'm not comfortable even doing that, I might tell them to leave their contact info on the shelf outside my door, and I may call them. ................. A friend recently had a man knock on the front door to ask for help with his broke down car while the man's buddy went around to break in the back door. My friend told the front door man to hang on while he got a coat and work boots on. My friend went to his back door with a shotgun he kept hidden and walked the back door man around to the front. Then, he asked both men to take off their clothes and sent them away in their underwear. Have a nice day. lol.

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