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Woman victim of contracting scam

Dear Annie: Recently, my mother, an intelligent older woman, fell victim to a contracting scam. The contractor noticed she needed some work done on her house and showed up on her doorstep offering to do a free appraisal. He seemed professional and probably somewhat charming, so she let him give her an estimate. He showed her a license to convince her that he was reputable, gave her a written contract, which conveniently did not include a timeframe for completion, and collected the bulk of the money in advance.

After she paid him, there were immediate problems. The contractor and his workers showed up for half a day for the first week, whereupon he told her she needed additional work and took another check from her. They’ve now been missing for two weeks and have made no attempt to contact her.

I contacted the county and was told that he does not have a legitimate business license. The paper he showed her was forged. It is imperative for anyone who has been scammed to contact the attorney general in their state to file a complaint. The more complaints, the more likely it is that the matter will be pursued. It’s also important to contact your local homebuilders association for information on how to avoid being the victim of a scam. And always check out any contractor before you hire them, no matter how professional or charming they appear to be. – Hoping To Stop the Crook in Montgomery, Ala.

Dear Hoping: Thanks for the warning. We’ll add one more: Do not pay the bulk of the money in advance. A reasonable down payment should be enough.

Please email your questions to anniesmailbox@, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045.