Driveway repair paves way for scams in NorthlandIt might sound like one of the oldest tricks in the book, but driveway scams are again hitting the Northland.
By: Tom Olsen, Duluth News Tribune
It might sound like one of the oldest tricks in the book, but driveway scams are again hitting the Northland.
Several area residents have reported being duped by con men posing as professional contractors in recent weeks.
“This is something we’re seeing every year,” said St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips. “A lot of these guys are flying through the area.”
The scam usually consists of a team of supposed contractors knocking on residents’ doors, promising free or cheap driveway repairs, but only if the resident acts right away. The workers then usually demand a sum much higher than the market rate for repairs.
Mary Beth Eammaro, who owns a small motel on U.S. Highway 53 in Cotton, said her business was hit by the scammers Tuesday morning when several dump trucks rolled into their driveway. A man told her 83-year-old husband that they had leftover blacktop from another job and could repave their driveway for free.
Eammaro, who has power of attorney for her husband, said the man later came to her demanding $28,000 for the job. She called the sheriff’s office and the workers left before deputies arrived, she said.
Although they didn’t lose any money, the workers caused damage that the couple will now have to pay to have repaired, Eammaro said.
“They made a hell of a big hole in the middle of our driveway with a Bobcat,” she said. “The job is halfway done.”
Jack Frestedt of Duluth reported that his 88-year-old father was scammed out of $800 last week. A crew showed up at his home on Arrowhead Road and offered to fill in cracks in his small driveway, but they did not negotiate any price at the time, Frestedt said. When the work was complete, the crew wanted $1,200, although his father was able to negotiate it down to $800, he said.
Frestedt said his father was not aware that the price was far above market rates, and said he thinks the crew was intentionally targeting elderly residents.
“They’re taking advantage of a senior citizen,” he said. “I don’t want anyone else getting ripped off.”
Driveway scams are one of the oldest tricks in the book, yet they continue to work, Phillips said.
“It’s the oldest style of fraud in the world,” he said. “Today we think of phone and Internet scams, but they’re still going door-to-door.”
Phillips said people should report any suspicious business deals to the authorities — even if they have already paid for the service.
Before entering into any agreement with contractors, residents should always ask for references, he said. Reputable businesses will not go door-to-door, pressuring people into sales, Phillips said.
“The bottom line is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said. “Nothing is that cheap and gets done right.”