Angies List Scams

February 20, 2011

Angies List came to my mind when I heard several recent examples of contractor scams on the news and in person. Just last month the Angies List magazine featured some of the worst contractors in the country and profiled common scams that involved things like false or decieving advertising, sneaky sales tactics, bad service, or cases where they take your money and don’t do the work.

Contractor Scams

I recently heard examples of some of these in our area.  One local news station profiled a woman who hired a contractor to install new windows.  He started the work but then started making excuses for why he couldn’t and eventually just disappeared.  Another TV show did some undercover reporting on duct cleaning companies that pulled major bait and switch jobs with their advertising and then didn’t even do all the work they upsold the homeowner on.  Lastly, our realtor paid several thousand for home improvements and then the contractor never even showed up to do the work.

How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off?

I think the first lesson from these is to avoid paying up front for the work.  Most contractors ask for some down payment to get started but if they require full payment prior to starting I’d look elsewhere.  I’m sure our realtor wished he’d only put down half up front.  Of course it stinks to lose any money at all but half is certainly better than all of it.  That case hits even closer to home for us because in a way, it was our money that was stolen.  We paid him thousands in commission to sell our house, then the contractor defrauded him out of some of that money, ouch.

In two of the cases I mentioned (window lady & our realtor), it turns out the person they hired had a history of not delivering on their work.  That’s one of the reasons we use Angies List to check out any contractor or business we’re considering.  If they have a history of issues then past customers may report it on Angies List.  You can search for contractor reviews by name or phone number as shown below:

Angies List Scam Search

If you don’t have a specific person you want to check out but just want to find some good referrals to call you can search by category or keyword.  For example, the lady in the air duct scam I mentioned earlier could have checked out the “Air Duct Cleaning” category in her city, or just searched on air duct cleaners.

Avoiding Contractor Scams

As I referred to above, Angie’s List magazine points out bad contractors and scams – one of the main ones from last year was air duct cleaners.  Sounds like many of the shady ones setup shop in a city for a few weeks, with a store front and phone number, and then move on.  So you couldn’t depend on reviews for companies like those but reading about the air duct cleaning scams would give you the red flags to look for when evaluating companies.

For a company that does have a history of consumer complaints, look for a scam alert like the one below.  This shows you what it looks like when you search for a company on Angies List and they have a record of issues.

Angies List Alert

Of course not everyone uses the service to leave reviews so there will be questionable companies who don’t show up in the search results.  The way I try and avoid companies like that is by sticking with contractors that do have a good number of positive reviews.  Last summer I explained how I find local contractors using the service and also did an Angies List review

It is a paid service, which is why I avoided it for a few years.  But now that I’m using it I think it’s definitely worth the cost, I also have some Angies List coupon codes you can use to save some money on your membership.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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