Everyone loves a good deal, and some of life’s best luck is about being in the right place at the right time. But that place is never a driveway.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
More than probably, the guy who knocks on your door and tells you he’s a licensed paving contractor that can give you a new or refurbished asphalt driveway at a steep discount is almost certainly too good to be true. In fact, there’s not a lot of good that is likely to come through this scam disguised as good luck.
More like heartache and unplanned expenses. There’s a small but persistent “industry” of traveling scammers who go from town to town, as they have for decades, offering cut-rate and shoddy work either at crack sealing or putting a new layer of asphalt over aging driveways. This happens everywhere in the US, Canada and other countries, as it’s a well-established ruse. They sometimes get caught and prosecuted: in 2017, 52 individuals who identify as Irish Travelers in North Augusta, South Carolina were arrested and pled guilty to a variety of, including home improvement scams. According to a report in The State, the daily Columbia SC newspaper, “a popular scam was paving driveways with substandard material,” describing them as “traveling handymen, who roam the Carolinas and Georgia and rip off unsuspecting homeowners by doing shoddy or unfinished repair work after being paid up front in cash.”
The pitch, often made to elderly homeowners, goes something like this: They knock on the door and say they notice the driveway needs work. This is the homeowner’s “lucky day,” as they were on another job nearby and had excess asphalt leftover from their job. Rather than let it go to waste, they’d repair your driveway that very day at half the normal price. No contracts are involved, the homeowner doesn’t have time to check their credentials, but it looks like a great deal right before their eyes.
The layer of asphalt laid down might (but won’t always) look ok. Or, they may run out of material before the full driveway is covered, so they explain they’ll be back the following day. But the next day, and the day that follows, and the day after that as well, will come and go with no return of the itinerant asphalt paving crew. What was laid down won’t stand up to much time and traffic – and the homeowner’s money is long gone. With no written contracts, phone calls that go unanswered and no identification of the paving company there is little chance the homeowner will ever be compensated. Chances are the entire driveway will need to be redone by a licensed asphalt paving contractor.
The Better Business Bureau annually issues statements warning of this scam (almost all asphalt is laid in warmer seasons). They advise that paving companies would almost never have “excess asphalt leftover” from another job, as contractors are very accurate in bringing only the amount of material needed for that day (asphalt has to be laid down within a narrow range of temperatures to set correctly; leftovers would cool and need to be reprocessed at wasteful expense).
Instead, advises the BBB, the homeowner should always initiate contact with contractors on their terms. Investigate providers, read their online reviews, get more than one quote, and insist on written contracts – with no more than a 1/3 payment up front.
There is noting “too good to be true” about fair dealing and clear, legally contracted work that comes with the established reputation of a local supplier.