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Elderly couple ripped off by 'contractor' who charged $6K to expand their driveway

If someone shows up at your door, or leaves a flyer in your mailbox offering to work at your house, be very careful. Scammers know you have a lot of stimulus money.

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — The weather has been so nice in the Charlotte area this month and people are trying to find someone to tackle their home improvement projects. But scammers know that, and they're out there, too, knowing many people have stimulus money to spend. 

When you're hiring someone to work at your home, make sure you hire properly and never feel pressured to act immediately at your front door, especially if the offer sounds just too good. 

For example, a Kannapolis man hired a contractor for what was supposed to be a second driveway. Based on the photos, how much do you think this would cost? A few hundred dollars, maybe even $1,000? Nope. 

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The man who put that extra cement down for the elderly couple, one of whom is disabled, charged them $6,000 and even tried following them to the bank. When the couple drove to the police, the contractor vanished. 

Where did he come from? He simply walked up to the door with what sounded like a great offer. 

Credit: WCNC Viewer

It's spring, which means it's time to handle those projects on the honey-do list. But it's important that you don't get hammered by someone who's unlicensed, unqualified or dishonest. With so much stimulus money floating around, people have the cash to spend. 

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Here are some tips for hiring safely:

First, choose wisely before the work is started. Ask friends who they used for remodeling projects. It's better than online reviews, which can often be faked. 

Second, know your state's laws. Know when your contractor has to be licensed because, in some states, the threshold is for jobs only over $30,000. Under that, they don't need a license. 

“Contractors have been off the charts busy these last few months,” Tom Bartholomy of the Better Business Bureau said. "You are not their bank, you are their customer, don’t be their lender, and never feel pressured. Don’t front the money” Bartholomy added.

Next up, that criminal background check. Ask if there is a criminal history and then verify online. Look at the Department of Corrections or your local sheriff’s office website. If you hire a third party to find a contractor, don’t assume they checked, be sure to follow up. Check to see if this person is in good standing with the NC Contractor Board.

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Lastly, price. Contract, contract, contract. Get it in writing, and only pay 10% upfront, no matter how good their price sounds.

If it’s a small operation, ask how long they have been in business doing this work. Some like to be a jack of all trades and do pools, fences, plumbing and electrical. Ask to see their driver’s license, that a great way to verify who you are dealing with. Choosing wisely on the front end will save you a lot of headaches.