Picture of Donna Harlow

By the time you turn 65 years old, it’s possible you will have mowed a lawn approximately 1,188 times. Consider other year-round weekly chores like cleaning the house, washing the car, laundry and more – that is a lot of chores.

As we age, there are some tasks we may no longer be physically able to do and may want to spend our retirement doing other things. There are a lot of paid services available to help out with these kind of chores; however, it’s important to be aware that not all services are what they appear to be.

Service scams, also called “home improvement scams,” tend to target senior adults. Scammers focus on neighborhoods with a high concentration of older residents, or even review obituaries. They appear on the doorsteps claiming to spot something in need of fixing — like a roof or storm damaged trees. Some people will show up in your neighborhood claiming to have a “great deal,” such as on the latest security system.

Scammers often request upfront partial or complete payment, then say they will return in a few days to complete the work. They never come back, or if they do, perform substandard or only a portion of the expected work. 

One twist to the home improvement scam may be when one alleged worker distracts the senior, while another enters the house to steal money and other valuables.

When thinking about your home improvement needs, keep these tips in mind when hiring an outside service:

Be alert to these red flags

  • Special “deal” because they are already in the neighborhood
  • Sense of urgency:  Something dire will happen if you don’t address right now
  • High pressure is key
  • Non-local or unfamiliar company
  • They called you; you didn’t call them
  • Payment (or partial payment) requested before any service is done

 What to do

  • Trust your instincts!
  • Don’t hire someone on the spot who solicits you at your home
    • Call a reputable, local service provider who is willing to provide references
    • Contact the Better Business Bureau and check with other references before hiring
  • Don’t allow an individual in your home who you did not contact. Not even to do an inspection
    • Schedule time with service providers at a time convenient for you
    • If you are concerned, get an opinion from a reputable company of your choice
    • Discuss with a trusted person who will not benefit from the transaction
  • Don’t sign anything or make any payments unless you initiated the conversation and understand the agreement
    • Agree to service work in writing
    • Discuss options with a trusted person or consider if you need professional legal advice
    • Pay your service providers after the work has been completed
    • Consider payments via credit card rather than checks/cash for better paper trail

ALWAYS report any suspicious activity to your local law enforcement – IMMEDIATELY.

Schedule a Money Safety for Seniors Workshop.

Learn how to detect, protect against and report the financial exploitation of seniors. Old National offers this course to community groups at no cost.

Donna is a Senior Loss Prevention Analyst, CFE and part of the Fraud Prevention and Investigations Department at Old National. This group is responsible for investigating and responding to bank-related fraud situations, as well as training and educating associates and clients about fraud.

This content is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice or indicate the suitability of any product or service for your unique circumstances. You are encouraged to consult with a qualified legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professional based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.