The Readington Township Police Department has issued a scam alert for its residents. I am sure this scam is not limited to Readington Township but can be found all over Hunterdon County. The scam consists of unsolicited offers to pave a residential driveway. As usual with these scams, the elderly are targeted.
The police report that a paving company, which has not applied for a solicitation permit, will knock on a door and claim to have extra materials from a job nearby. The scam artist will offer a low price and pressure the homeowner into accepting. When the job is done, the workmanship will be shoddy, and the contractor will then charge a higher price than was quoted. The homeowner will be threatened or intimidated into paying.
The Warning Signs
The Readington Police Department has made the following list of warning signs and comments:
- Selling door to door. Reputable paving companies will rarely, if ever, sell their product door-to-door.
- Claiming to have leftover material from another job. Professional asphalt contractors know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed for a job. They will rarely have leftover material.
- Pushing you to make a quick decision. Reputable contractors will provide a written estimate that will be valid for days or weeks. If the great deal they are offering you today is not available tomorrow or next week, it is probably a scam. Never hire anyone on the spot. Ask for references and check them.
- No contract is offered. Insist on a written contract specifying, in detail, the work to be performed and the agreed upon total price—not the price per square foot.
- Requiring cash only sales. Most reputable contractors will take checks or credit cards and do not require cash-only terms.
- Details that seem to be too good to be true. If the quoted price seems very low, chances are the quality of the work will be very low.
- An unmarked truck. Often the trucks they travel in are unmarked or they have an out of town address and phone number. A little research will reveal that they have no permanent address and the phone number is often an answering machine.
Good General Advice
Many of these points listed by the police apply to all solicitations, including those over the phone. If you are being pressured to “act now”, or told you are in a situation where, if you do not act now, something terrible will happen to you or a loved one, alarms should set off in your mind. Stop. Do not act. There is seldom a situation where more time will not be allowed. Call your police department, a neighbor or a loved one. Check with them first.
Keep your outside storm door locked. Especially the back door. Many times you will be kept busy at the front door while another person walks around and enters your house from the rear.
By law, contractors performing work on residential homes are required to give you a written contract with all of the terms spelled out. It must contain a license number, and the ability to cancel within three business days. There are severe penalties to contractors who do not comply with this law.
Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. Esq. focuses his practice in estate planning, elder law and probate matters. Mr. Shanahan additionally practices in business law and non-profit matters. He is a trained, experienced mediator and offers dispute resolution services, particularly for those arising from probate and elder law matters. Additionally, Mr. Shanahan’s firm, Shanahan & Voigt, LLC, offers a breadth of additional services to families and businesses throughout central New Jersey.
Mr. Shanahan received his Juris Doctor from the Temple University School of Law in 1985, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1981 from William Paterson University, with honors. Robert is a member and Past President of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, and is a member of its Elder Law Committee. He is also active in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and its New Jersey Chapter. He is pro bono counsel for Volunteer Guardianship One on One, in Flemington, New Jersey. Bob was named as a Super Lawyer in 2020.