More reliable than sunshine each summer is the presence of paving scams. This year is no exception.

Police say they have received information from all across Androscoggin County of numerous paving companies defrauding customers, providing shoddy service or using high pressure and aggressive sales tactics. In some of these cases, suspects have altered the checks in an attempt to increase the payments they are receiving.

The most common tactic used, police say, is for suspects to approach elderly residents and quote a very low price for paving services with no written contract. Once the job is complete, the company increases the price and threatens the customer into paying the new price instead of the original estimate. Quite often, the victim is intimidated into paying the exorbitant price. In one instance, police said, the company altered a check for an additional $1,000.

Here are some things police say could keep you from becoming a victim:

• Quick turn-around and immediate payment are key to a successful asphalt paving scam. Crews usually move from town to town offering paving or sealing. Employees of these crews approach consumers in their yards, promising low estimates because of leftover materials from a completed job a few houses away or on a nearby highway project.

• They may offer a lifetime guarantee, but often the quality of the material used, shoddy workmanship or insufficient depth of pavement will fail after the first heavy rain. Unfortunately, the paving crew is long gone by the time you discover you have a problem.

• The initial estimate is almost always agreed upon without a written contract. Without a written contract, the original low estimate may grow to hundreds or even thousands of dollars once the work is completed. The crews often operate near major highway systems and insist on cash payments. If checks are accepted at all, they are cashed immediately at the nearest bank.

• If you are eager to have the work done, you should insist that it be on your terms. Ask for references and check them before agreeing to have the work done. Take the crew’s written estimate and tell them you will get back to them. Get bids from established local paving companies to compare prices.

• Make sure the asphalt paving company has its transient merchant’s license, which is issued by the state of Maine. This license requires that the company be bonded so that in the event the work is not performed or is substandard, you may be able to file a claim against the bond. Without a bond, you will have little recourse if there is a problem and the paving crew leaves town. This bond, however, will not guarantee satisfactory results or a refund.

• Don’t let them pressure you to have the work done immediately. Maine law requires that consumers who are solicited at their homes be given a written, three-day right of cancellation.

• Check with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division to determine whether any consumer complaints have been filed against the company. However, a lack of complaints does not mean a company is a good company. It might simply be an indication that consumers haven’t filed complaints. Also, beware of transient asphalt paving companies that have changed business names to avoid recognition or a complaint history.

• The Attorney General cautions consumers to consider local, reputable asphalt paving companies. You can also check your consumer rights as they apply to home sales at www.maine.gov/ag/dynld/documents/clg13.pdf.


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