The Toronto Police Service has issued an alert to members of the public regarding the number of home renovation frauds taking place across the city.
In a news release issued on Thursday, Oct. 5, police said the frauds are “pervasive” and there has been a recent surge in the number of them reported due to the unseasonably warm weather this week.
“Suspects typically solicit door to door, handing out flyers for fraudulent or non-existent companies offering services for roofing, paving and fencing,” said police in the news release. “The work is usually never completed or is substandard and done with poor quality products.”
Police said the fraudsters often target elderly and vulnerable citizens using “high-pressure tactics” to commence work immediately. The fraudsters usually demand payment in the form of cash or bank draft, said police.
The problem of frauds and scams against seniors and vulnerable residents is of particular note for those living in the East Toronto area as a number of incidents have been reported recently.
In a Letter to the Editor in the Oct. 3 edition of Beach Metro Community News, resident Lynn Wells highlighted the problem and it’s impacts on local residents.
Her letter reads:
“A year ago, Beach Metro Community News ran a story on confidence men working in our community under the title, ‘Vulnerable seniors taken advantage of by fraudsters’.
“They, or people like them are back.
“Four men were arrested on Willow Avenue early last month in connection with a ‘roofing scam.’
“I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted that confidence men take advantage of the frailty of age, that they deceive and coerce and defraud our most vulnerable neighbours of so much money each year.
“The percentage of seniors who are victims of fraud is estimated at 5.9 per cent. But seniors, for various reasons such as cognitive impairment and deep embarrassment, are often reluctant to report their fraud losses. So the number is likely higher.
“Being the victim of a scam can be detrimental to seniors’ mental health, making them feel stupid, helpless, anxious, depressed, fearful, distrustful and ashamed.
“We have ‘Street Proofing Programs’ for kids. Where is the equivalent ‘street-proofing’ protection for elderly adults?
“We need to teach the elderly:
“Don’t take rides to the bank with strangers. Do not pay in cash or bank drafts.
“Don’t sign contracts with contractors who haven’t displayed their business licence on their vehicles and their invoices.
“Don’t be pressured into doing work now because “the deal is closing” or “we’re working in your neighbourhood.” If they tell you that they are doing work for neighbours, tell them that you will talk to those neighbours.
“Talk over the work and show the estimate to an adult child or a trusted friend. Don’t be bullied into work that may not need doing.
“For those of us who have elderly friends and neighbours:
“Do feel it’s your business to intercede, to lend support if you observe an elderly neighbour being talked to by strangers and looking confused or uncomfortable.
“Do encourage them to think about the deal and to get a second opinion.
“If you are staff at a bank branch:
“Do ask an elderly person what large withdrawals are funding. If you’re uncertain about the response, stall for time. Talk to a manager. Sometimes the con artist will get frightened off.
“Thank you. I am sorry for the elderly neighbours that have already been defrauded but perhaps I can actually help by bringing this revolting predation to the attention of those who have not yet been taken advantage of.”
A number of tips have been offered by police to help residents prevent these frauds. The tips include:
- Be wary of unsolicited contractors going door to door, especially those using pressure tactics and demanding payment in cash/bank draft or demanding a large down payment.
- Avoid impulse decisions to hire a contractor. Do your research (online, references, word of mouth).
- Select a reputable company and obtain a detailed written contract.
- There is no obligation to speak to a salesperson soliciting at your door.
- Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Residents who believe they have been the victim of fraud are encouraged to report the incident to police. In Toronto, residents can call the financial crimes unit at 416-808-7300 or go online to https://www.tps.ca/services/online-reporting/
Suspected frauds an also be reported to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre’s online reporting system at https://www.antifraudcentre-centreantifraude.ca/index-eng.htm or by phone at 1-888-495-8501.
Members of the public can also find further information or file a complaint with The Ontario Ministry of Public And Business Service Delivery (MPBSD) and Competition Bureau Canada.
Consumers can learn more at about the Consumer Protection Act, 2002 by calling the Ministry at 416-326-8800 or toll-free at 1-800-889-9768.
Anyone with information about fraudsters is asked to contact police at 416-808-7300, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477) or online at https://www.222tips.com