Scammers don’t all come in the form of call centers from half way around the world and criminals don’t always dress the part. In fact, as our parents get older, some of the people we need to watch out for are those who seem the most helpful.
While the majority of repair people – plumbers, electricians, etc – are outstanding citizens, it just takes a few bad apples to put us on high alert.
A Repair Scam Story
A story posted on Reddit in early 2022 sums up the repairman scam quite succinctly. The story begins by explaining that
“a friend of mine is a contractor. He works with people from across the full gamut of trades. I was talking to him about an issue I had with my chimney, and he told me a story I thought you would all find interesting and infuriating.”
The Reddit user continues,
“one his favorite clients is a widowed elderly woman in her mid-80s. She loves to keep her house tidy and modern since her husband passed. She is pretty flush with cash due to a medical malpractice lawsuit and it is apparently pretty clear when you see her house.”
“Anyway,” he continues, “she ran into an issue with her chimney. She opened her rolodex and called the chimney repair company that her husband used. The son took over the company and came over right away with his partner. They proceeded to convince her she needed a new flue, brick repair, and a ‘cleaning’. This was for a bill of $10,000+. This was the company her husband used — and he used to handle this sort of thing – so she believed them.”
We can all imagine this scenario. We could probably imagine it happening to ourselves. We are forced to put some level of trust into the people who we invite over to work on our homes as, if we knew how to fix the problem ourselves, we would.
Luckily for the woman in the story, the Reddit user’s friend just happened to have stopped by the woman’s house as well to take a look at something else and when she mentioned the chimney work, he took a look himself and realized there was really only a couple hundred dollars worth of repair work to be done. He was able to intervene before the woman was scammed out of over $10,000.
“[My friend] called his mason out to take a look and the chimney was fine. It needed a little brick work near the bottom (which is why she called the chimney repair) but it was otherwise a fully operable chimney. My friend said he called the guy, but he hung up right away and stopped answering calls.”
Stay Vigilant of Repairman Scams
Sadly, this story isn’t one of a kind. There are plenty of contractors who will see an opportunity for a few extra dollars and take advantage of the situation. If your mother or father is showing signs of cognitive decline, it’s easy for them to unknowingly approve $3,000 worth of pipe replacements if all they have is a leaky faucet or to sign up for monthly electricity maintenance when all they had was a faulty light switch.
As young, healthy individuals, it’s often hard to know if we’re paying the right price when it comes to plumbing or mechanic work. But, with our senses in tact, we’re able to make a reasonable deduction and reach out for a second opinion if we feel like something isn’t quite right.
But our parents might not realize what’s happening and just go on with the project.
It is critical to keep an eye on your loved one’s spending and make note of any upcoming repair visits to be sure you’re there to handle the situation if need be.
Using an app like WayWiser can truly help. Creating a Trusted Circle of family and friends so that you’re in the loop when it comes to home repairs or car tune-ups can seem insignificant, but it can ultimately mean keeping your parents safe from exploitive vendors and wildly fraudulent payments.