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Asphalt scams roll through Minnesota and North Dakota

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It's that time of year when you might get an unexpected knock on your door -- especially if you have an older or unpaved parking lot or driveway. The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning consumers and businesses that asphalt scam artists are out and about trying to rustle up jobs. These operators often go door-to-door claiming they have asphalt from a nearby project and they're willing to do work at a discounted rate. However, the quality of work is often sub-par and the final cost can sometimes be double - or even many times - the quoted price.

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The BBB has received numerous reports from area consumers who have fallen prey to this scam in recent weeks. The BBB also notes that in most of these cases contracts were not provided prior to the work being performed; all agreements were verbal. Customers who deal with companies that operate in this fashion quickly discover that if there are problems with the work performed, they only have a phone number for the company and no other way to contact them if calls are not returned - which is often the case.

"This is what we call a classic scam, and people fall victim to it every day during the paving season somewhere in Minnesota and North Dakota," said Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of the BBB. "Worse yet, the elderly are often the ones this scam targets most."

To avoid asphalt scams, be sure you know who you're dealing with. Research the company first at www.bbb.org. Also, watch for these common signs of an asphalt scam:

The claim the company has leftover asphalt from another job. Be aware of paving companies that approach your home, stating that they are "in the area" and have extra asphalt or concrete to repair your driveway for a minimal cost. Professional asphalt contractors know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed to complete a project. Rarely will they have leftover material.

High pressure sales. Never hire someone on the spot. Trustworthy contractors provide a written estimate that will be valid for days or weeks. Ask for local references and verify that the contractor is in compliance, current and up-to-date with all local licensing, bonding and insuring requirements. If you feel that you are being subjected to high-pressure sales tactics, the BBB advises you to end the conversation and tell the company you're not interested.

Deals that seem too good to be true. If the quoted price seems very low, chances are the quality of work will also be quite low. Many times the company will quote a low price for their work and upon completion overcharge the customer.

No contract is offered. Insist on a written estimate specifying in detail the work to be performed and the agreed total price, not just price per square foot. Then get at least two more quotes before hiring a contractor.

Cash-only sales. Most reputable contractors take checks or credit cards and don't require cash-only terms and will not demand payment in advance.

Unmarked trucks. Often the trucks they travel in are unmarked or they have an out-of-town address and phone number. A little research will reveal that they have no permanent address and the phone number is often an answering machine or answering service.

A professionally designed and properly constructed asphalt pavement will last for many years, and reputable contractors will stand behind their work. They will also know whether or not a permit could be required before work begins. Consumers are often safer dealing with a contractor who has roots in the community. Contact the BBB for a free business review on any company you are considering doing business with by visiting bbb.org

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