It’s a question that comes up every summer and at other times of the year with variations in the services being offered. Very recently, we have received some questions, as well as complaints, about money paid to service providers and unsatisfactory or substandard work being completed or not completed at all, specifically with asphalt paving companies.

These are common financial scams that take place across the country. While they are most often civil in nature, there could be criminal components associated with the scam as well. We have recently been made aware of similar scams and variations in the scams that are happening around the area.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota warns consumers and business owners that suspect asphalt firms often visit areas where there is lot of construction going on, trying to rustle up jobs. These operators often go door-to-door claiming they have extra asphalt from a nearby project and they’ll work at a discounted rate. However, the quality of the work is often sub-par and the final bill can sometimes be double — or even many times more — the original quoted price.

The Better Business Bureau publishes some excellent tips in preventing from being victim to these paving scams.

Be on the lookout for these common signs of a suspect asphalt firm:

• They claim the company has leftover asphalt from another job. Be wary of paving companies stating they are “in the neighborhood” and have extra asphalt at the ready to repair your driveway for a minimal cost. Professional asphalt contractors know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed to complete a project. They will rarely have leftover materials and usually don’t solicit jobs in this manner.

• High pressure sales. Never hire someone on the spot. Trustworthy contractors provide a written estimate that will be valid for days afterwards or much longer. If you feel that you are being subjected to high-pressure sales tactics, the Better Business Bureau advises you to end the conversation and tell the company you’re not interested. Ask for local references to confirm they are working in the area and other customers are happy with their job.

• Deals that seem too good to be true. If the quoted price seems very low, chances are the quality of work will also be quite low.

• No contract is offered. Insist on a written contract specifying in detail the work to be performed and the agreed total price, not just price per square foot. Then get at least two more estimates before hiring a contractor.

• Cash-only sales. Most reputable contractors take checks or credit cards and don’t require cash-only terms. You also want to be sure to write checks out to the company and not individual employees.

• Unmarked trucks. Less than reputable firms often travel in unmarked trucks or ones that have out-of-state license plates. Some research usually reveals that they have no permanent address and phone numbers they give out are not answered. Get as much information off the trucks as you can. Most of these trucks are required to have a company name and DOT number on them.

To avoid asphalt schemes, always be sure you know who you’re dealing with. Research the company at bbb.org and check other online resources, as well as area officials and other reputable companies that you are familiar with.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, contact me anytime: e-mail tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us; call (218) 547-1424  or (800) 450-2677; or mail Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN 56484

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