Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ April 2010

Warmer Weather Brings Home Improvement Con Artists

The Montgomery County Police would like to remind members of the community to be on the lookout for unlicensed home improvement contractors.  As the weather warms up and spring approaches, the activities of “woodchucks” increases.  The group of individuals described as “woodchucks” are scam artists who generally target our elderly residents.  These individuals will approach a victim and tell them that their trees need to be trimmed or removed.  Then they will pressure the victim into paying thousands of dollars to have a few tree branches removed.  The “woodchucks” then continue their scam by telling the victim that their roof is leaking and continue to scam the victim out of thousands of dollars more.

Recently, there have been several high-profile cases involving fraudulent contractors who have conned MoCo residents out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In one case, the victim lost $90,000; in another case, the victim lost $82,500; and, in yet another case, the victim was lucky and only lost $3,000.

The unlicensed home improvement contractors will drive through neighborhoods looking for elderly residents or cars with handicapped license plates on them.  They will then approach the house and try to solicit business.  Several clues that a fraudulent contractor is present include saying things like, “We have material left over from another job in the area and can give you a real good price.”  When a contractor tells the victim that they must pay half or all of the cost of the job up front, this is also a clue that they are fraudulent.  Maryland state law states that a contractor may not charge more that 33 percent of the total cost of the job as a down payment.

Two prevalent scams that occur in Montgomery County are the “driveway re-sealing” scams and the “roof leak” scam.  In these scams, the fraudulent contractor approaches the homeowner and tells them that their driveway needs to be re-sealed and then quote an exorbitant price.  The same applies to the roof leak scam.  The fraudulent contractor will tell the victim that their roof is leaking and that they need emergency repairs.  Again, when the quoted price is $25,000 to $30,000 to repair a minor roof leak, this is a clear indication that a fraudulent contractor is present.

To prevent home improvement scams:

For more information regarding home improvement jobs and hiring a contractor, please contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 240.777.3636 or go to the Montgomery County Government Website, and click on “Departments,” then click on “Consumer Protection.”   ■

   © 2010 NFCCA  [Source:]