(Missouri) — Just as the robins begin hopping around on lawns every spring, asphalt driveway paving scam artists start to appear this time of the year in Callaway County.
Lt. Tim Osburn of the Callaway County Sheriff’s Department says the asphalt scam artists have returned to the Fulton area.
“Every spring the asphalt driveway scam begins to operate in Callaway County and it basically goes on throughout the summer. We have scam artists traveling through the area. They tell people they have a construction or paving job nearby that’s finished and they have some asphalt left over. They say if you act now they can give it to you for a cut-rate deal,” Osburn said.
The scam artists drive around and notice a driveway that needs some work and target them for the scam.
“It’s unfortunate that they seem to prey mainly on elderly people,” Osburn said.
Osburn said a few days ago an elderly Callaway County resident was taken by the scam. In this case, instead of paving the driveway with asphalt, some colored rock was dumped into the driveway and not even spread, Osburn said.
“They either pave a very narrow driveway or a thin driveway. Sometimes they do nothing at all,” Osburn said.
“We get some reports of driveway scams every year. We know elderly people are targeted. After it is over, they often are too ashamed to report it because they don’t want people know they have been taken. Often the reports we receive are from children of people who were bilked,” Osburn said.
“About every year, there are several asphalt driveway scam groups operating in Callaway County. There’s a big group from Hannibal that seems to come here. Typically they drive some nice equipment. They have nice, shined-up trucks and look professional,” Osburn said.
Sometimes scam artists will drive around and look for a driveway that needs some repairs. They will drive up and honk to see if anyone comes out. “In the middle of the day, often the only people home are elderly people,” Osburn said.
Usually, the phony crew will not offer a contract or allow people time to seek competitive bids from local firms.
Some, however, offer a lifetime guarantee. But the material used is often inferior and the victim may soon have weeds growing through the new asphalt. The crew that gave them a fake name is long gone by the time the victim realizes he has a problem.
The scam artists usually perform some work on a job in order to get the money from the victim.
If law enforcement officers are able to track them down, they usually claim they had no idea the customer was not satisfied and they will be more than happy to give the complaining customer his or her money back. That way they may be able to escape prosecution if caught.
To avoid being taken by driveway scam artists, Osburn has some suggestions:
* Be suspicious of a contractor who solicits door to door.
* Be wary of a firm that has an unmarked truck or van.
* Know the firm involved in the transaction and get competitive bids. “We don’t tell people to deal only with local people. But if they want to deal with someone from out of town, at least ask them for references and find out something about the firm,” Osburn said.
* Don’t be rushed or pressured into allowing the work to be done that day. “People shouldn’t be fooled by someone saying they have just completed a job down the road and have some left over. Asphalt is like concrete. It’s expensive. If they work on a job, they won’t have enough left over to do any kind of a decent driveway job for you,” Osburn said.