June 25, 2024

GONZALES, La. – Numerous regional law enforcement departments are alerting Louisiana residents about phone and contractor fraud schemes aimed at the elderly and homeowners.

Both the Port Allen Police Department and the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office have issued warnings about phone fraudsters who claim to represent local law enforcement agencies, threatening arrest unless immediate payment is made via phone or digital methods. It appears that elderly individuals in Ascension Parish have been specifically targeted by these fraud attempts.

It should be noted that financial transactions involving GreenDot, CashApp, Venmo or PayPal will never be requested by the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office or the Port Allen Police as a means to settle legal issues.

If you receive a questionable call, terminate it right away. Residents in Ascension Parish can report suspicious calls to APSO at (225) 621-8300. If you reside in a different parish, contact your local police department or sheriff’s office to report it.

Scammers Posing as Home Improvement Contractors, Exploiting Local Homeowners

Local homeowners have reported to the East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office that they had allegedly been targeted by asphalt contractors who had offered to repair or pave their driveways for a discounted price using surplus materials. Once the contractors have partially completed the job and the driveway is unusable, they demand an increased payment under the threat of abandoning the project.

According to the sheriff’s office, this is a scam activity first reported by The Regional Organized Crime Information Center (ROCIC) in Louisiana this year. ROCIC is one of six major organizations serving numerous law enforcement agencies across multiple states and had recently spotted this scam in the Monroe area. Such contractor or home improvement scams tend to surge in the south during winter months. The fraudsters often offer services like exterior paint jobs, driveway repairs, roof sealing, tree trimming, extermination or lightning rod installation.

Team Mazda

Scammers may also intentionally damage a home and then propose a cheap solution for the problem. They usually operate in pairs, where one party distracts the homeowner through conversation while the other sneaks into your house to steal valuable items. The quality of the work typically subpar, with the work often left incomplete, forcing the homeowner to seek additional help to fix the errors.

These scams usually increase after a significant storm or weather event, as homeowners often need to repair damages. However, contractor scams can occur at any time. Be cautious of contractors driving unmarked vehicles or those with out-of-state license plates and phone numbers, as they could potentially be traveling scammers.

Construction workerThe East Feliciana Sheriff’s Office warns Louisiana homeowners about fake home improvement contractors knocking on doors intending to defraud residents.

Here are six measures you can take to help detect a fraud:

  • Be wary of red flags such as cash-only transactions, high-pressure sales tactics, prepayments, handshake deals without contracts, and unsolicited inspections. Although not all contractors are swindlers, be particularly vigilant with a contractor who approaches you first, especially uninvited.
  • Ask for references. Dishonest contractors will likely hesitate to provide this information, while scammers will get impatient if you decide to check them out. You can also look them up on the Better Business Bureau’s website or contact the BBB South Central Louisiana at (225) 346-5222.
  • Insist on written contracts with detailed pricing, materials and timelines. It might also be prudent to obtain quotes from multiple contractors.
  • Understand the law. Always collaborate with local businesses with legal identification, licensing, and insurance. Understand also who is required to secure the necessary permits based on your local regulations, and ensure your chosen contractor complies with these.
  • Take your time and trust your instincts. Do not succumb to pressure to make a quick decision. Your home is most likely your largest investment. Use Google Business reviews to research reputable, high-rated and licensed contractors in your locality. You can also ask friends, family, or neighbors to recommend trustworthy contractors.
  • Report fraudsters. If you suspect to be a scam victim, immediately report them to the authorities. In case of threats or theft, dial 911 for emergency or your local police department for non-emergency situations.

Remember the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

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