Each year as the weather heats up and summer storms pop up frequently, roofing scams pop up more often as well – especially those involving "free" roof inspections. Reports from consumers submitted to BBB's Scam Tracker show that this year has been no different. Homeowners should be on the lookout for these cons.
How the scam works. It starts with a call or a person showing up at your door claiming to represent a local roofing company. We've seen a trend in reports on Scam Tracker indicating that many will use the name of the state or area they're soliciting in, and simply add the words "Roofing" or "Construction" to create their business name.
The "roofer" offers a free inspection. Why, you ask? The person may claim that their company is working on a neighbor's home and is offering inspections to those living nearby. But, if you ask questions about where the business is located or how their services work, you'll most likely be met with vague answers. If you're speaking on the phone, they may simply hang up. In several cases, consumers report being approached by a company representative going door to door with claims that roof damage is visible from the road.
If you accept their offer of a "free" inspection, most likely the next step is a visit from an "inspector" at your house. If they don't find enough wear and tear to merit a whole new roof, they may fabricate it, by tearing off shingles to mimic wind damage. Or they may simply show you pictures of someone else's damaged roof. In either case they'll assure you that they can convince your insurance company to cover the cost for the repairs or replacement to your roof.
Don't hire a company using this approach! Any repairs done by such a dishonest business are not likely to be high quality. And in some cases, BBBs have found that after receiving up-front deposits, the work isn't done at all.
How to avoid roofing scams
* Beware of unsolicited offers. Most scams begin with a contractor who "just happens to be in the area." Roofing scams typically increase in frequency after a powerful storm, so stay alert.
* Get your insurance company to inspect your roof. Filing a claim with your insurance company goes on your record and could affect future claims or your continued coverage. Before signing any paperwork or contracts with a roofing company, have your insurance company come out for an inspection to verify the need for repairs or replacements.
* Be very cautious about who you allow on your roof. If an uninsured contractor is injured on your property, you could be financially responsible for the damages, including medical bills. This is another reason why it's best to proactively seek out a reputable roofing contractor. As you do so, be sure to check their insurance coverage and confirm that they have a workers compensation policy actively in place.
* Research roofing companies before you hire. Look at a company's business rating and other information on BBB.org. Keep a close eye on previous reviews and any complaints other consumers might have had. This is one of the best ways to know if a roofing company is reputable or just a cover for a scam.
In addition, if you feel that you have roof damage that needs to be addressed, you can find a list of BBB Accredited Roofers to consider on BBB.org or by calling your BBB at 423-266-6144.
To learn more about hiring a roofing company, please visit BBB's article at bbb.org/roofers.
If you've been the victim of roofing scam, please report it on BBB's Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker immediately. Your report will help alert others to the danger, especially those in neighboring areas.
Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.