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Wisconsin Dells veteran loses thousands to paving scam

Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 10:45 PM CDT
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WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. (WMTV) - More people are diving into home improvement projects during the pandemic but imagine paying for work that’s never completed. That’s what a Wisconsin Dells man says happened to him.

Daniel Defosse says he lost $3,000 to a local contractor he paid to re-pave his driveway.

He says he knew the man from around the area and that he had done small repair work for him in the past. Defosse paid the balance in full for the work on his driveway. “In the meantime, I brought him over to my brother-in-law, Bob’s and I said I’d like Bob’s done too...it’s about the same size driveway,” said Defosse.

They gave the contractor half of what was asked for Bob’s driveway, expecting the work to begin the next day. Weeks went by and nothing was done.

Defosse says he tried to get his money back and even tried to work with the contractor to get everything done over time but he had no luck.

He contacted authorities and filed a complaint with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau.

Although Defosse knew the person who scammed him, the BBB says it’s tracking similar complaints about illegitimate companies offering low prices for paving services.

“Either the company takes their money and they never hear from them again or they come back and do substandard work,” said Tiffany Schultz, BBB Southwest Wisconsin Regional Director.

NBC15 Investigates reached out to a Fitchburg company that does paving work to learn more about the process of contracting this kind of work.

Melissa Friederick is the Marketing Manager for 7 Hills Striping in Fitchburg. She says if a company asks for full payment upfront for a job they haven’t started, that’s a red flag. “For any type of paving project...that’s a huge investment and you really need to do your research,” said Friederick.

She says folks should get quotes from more than one place and shop for the best price for what they want done. She said beware of prices too high or too low.

Defosee says he wants the person who took his money held accountable and hopes authorities file charges.

Defosse shared the name of the contractor he says scammed him. NBC15 Investigates is working to learn more about the company and how or if law enforcement is following up. We’re also working to learn if other may have been impacted by this company as well.

The BBB says in the last 12 months, it has received more than 500 complaints nationwide about paving companies.

Schultz says the majority of the complaints are in reference to unsatisfactory or substandard work, or the contractor has taken the money upfront but has not returned to do the work.

The Better Business Bureau has recommendations to ensure this doesn’t happen to you:

How to Avoid Contractor Scams

  • Be wary of unsolicited offers. Most scams involving contractors begin when a random contractor makes an effort to go out of their way to offer you an estimate you never asked for.
  • Research companies and contractors before you hire. Start with BBB.org. If the contractor has multiple negative reviews and complaints, don’t hire them. Often, a simple internet search will reveal companies or individuals that have been involved in fraudulent activities or provided unsatisfactory work to previous clients.
  • Get everything in writing. Ask for an estimate in writing before payment is even discussed. Don’t let a contractor start working on a project until you have a written, signed contract that outlines start and complete dates, a detailed description of the work to be provided, material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information.
  • Stagger your payments. Most contractors will require you to pay a percentage of the total price up front, but you should never pay the full price before the work has begun. Instead, make an agreement to stagger payments, so you can inspect work at various stages of the project.
  • Use safe payment methods. Paying with a credit card is the best practice, since the credit card company will likely offer some recourse if the company is fraudulent. Checks are also a safe way to pay, but make sure to write them out to a company, not an individual. Paying cash or using an electronic wallet app is risky, since there is no way to stop the payment or get your cash back if anything goes wrong.

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