CBC News has reported on a scam where the renovator, not the consumer, almost was duped by a smooth-emailing con-artist.
Al Shaw, owner of A Shaw Roofer, posted on his blog that fraudsters are using vacant homes to glean critical financial information, and cash, from contractors.
“If we would have fallen for the scam, we would have been out the $6,000 and may have had our company bank account emptied in the process,” he said.
Shaw received a text message from a potential client, who indicated he had just purchased a home in Edmonton and needed to have the roof replaced.
The roofer inspected the home, drew up a quote and emailed it to the client who, within just a few minutes, signed off on the work.
But Shaw soon started feeling suspicious.
“Something just didn’t seem right.”
“A “For Sale” sign was posted on the front lawn; the house appeared empty; and the client refused to meet in person,” CBC reported. “A call to the realtor confirmed Shaw’s suspicions. The house was indeed vacant, and still in search of a buyer.”
Shaw, curious to see how this scam worked, decided to ask his client a trick question.
“I had asked him if he had planted the beautiful rose bushes around the property. But, of course there weren’t any. I just wanted to see what his response would be. And he told me that his wife had planted them because she loved beautiful flowers.”
Shaw then confronted the client, who hung up the phone.
“I’ve been in this industry for 25 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Shaw told the CBC. “It was like a highly evolved email scam.”
Shaw said the scammers hire a contractor to perform exterior renovations to the home where entrance or access to the home is not required.
When the work is complete, the contractor is asked to provide bank account information so the client can pay for the renos. The scammer then uses to empty the company’s bank account, Shaw said.
An Edmonton Police Services spokesman said financial scams are becoming increasingly common in the city, but could not say how many cases like Shaw’s have been reported.