Sheriff Grady Judd reminds residents to continue to be alert and report any suspicious activity involving door-to-door solicitation of home repairs.
These "traveling scam artists" are well-known throughout Florida and other states, and they especially prey on the elderly. Although there are several variations of the scam, there is one common theme - it sounds too good to be true (and probably is).
Here's how the scam works:
An adult male approaches your house out of the blue, telling you that he is in the area doing some other type of construction or home improvement work, and has some leftover material he'd be willing to use to complete any projects at your house, for a "significant discount." Two common offers are sealing driveways, or roofing repairs. The suspect is typically driving a truck or large vehicle, but without any company decals or logos on it. The suspect is not wearing any clothing or items affiliated with a business, and will not have business cards.
Below are a several tips to remember when dealing with those who solicit "home improvement" business door-to-door:
* Request a written estimate on all home improvement offers and compare the prices. Con artists are notorious for charging a higher price for inferior materials and unnecessary repairs. Without a written estimate, victims get trapped into paying extremely high total costs when the job is "finished."
* Do not be rushed into a "special bargain" - often described as a "one-time" offer. An example is that a Traveler will claim he has excess asphalt, tar, etc. from another job and he will sell it "cheap." Remember, if it sounds too good to be true - it probably is.
* Do not do any business with any "contractor" with an out-of-state vehicle license.
* Any legitimate Polk County business soliciting work will have a Business Tax Receipt from the Polk County Tax Collector, a soliciting permit from the Clerk of the Courts, and a Florida Contractor's License. If they do not have all of these, do not do business with them.
* Be careful responding to any roadside sign offering workthis tactic is often used by Travelers. Out-of-state telephone numbers are also used in many of these scams.
* Call trusted family or friends to help you verify soliciting "contractors."
* Do not pay for anything until all services are completed to your satisfaction.
* Do not give out credit card numbers over the phone.
* Your best option is not to do business with any travelling soliciting contractorcontact local trusted construction companies and ask for references for honest local contractors.
* Report all suspicious offers or solicitations to the Sheriff's Office immediately at 863.298.6200.
Consumers can verify that an individual or business is licensed by going to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation's website at www.myfloridalicense.com. For additional information on the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and their assistance in this investigation, please contact the DBPR's Office Communications, 1940 North Monroe Street, Tallahassee, 850.922.8981.
Polk County Sheriff's undercover detectives, with the assistance of officers from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Florida Department of Financial Services, and the Florida Highway Patrol, working with prosecutors from the State Attorney's Office for the 10th Judicial Circuit, conducted a proactive investigation in January 2012 targeting fraudulent businesses attempting to conduct unlicensed and uninsured construction related work in Polk County, and arrested five suspects. Click here to read the news release: