Home improvement projects can be a great way to update and enhance your living space. For some older adults in Canada, however, these projects can sometimes lead to scams and financial abuse. While anyone can be a victim of financial fraud, older adults are often a target for door-to-door swindlers, who try to sell seniors home improvement products and services they don’t want or need.

Coercing unsuspecting seniors to sign service contracts or financial documents, and exploitation by service providers rank among the top forms of financial abuse. Here’s how to spot these scams and protect yourself.

How to spot a scammer

Scammers will make unsolicited offers for home improvement services, often through door-to-door sales pitches. Whether it's a phone call, email, or a knock on your door, be cautious about accepting offers for services, including for rental equipment contacts, from individuals or companies you didn't initiate contact with. Be very wary of these offers and always verify the legitimacy of these sales pitches through your own independent research.

Recently, these scams have become even more elaborate with older adults, who have previously been tricked into buying questionable door-to-door services, finding themselves facing the next wave of scammers who say they can help the homeowners consolidate their debt and then trick them into signing loan papers they don’t understand.

How to protect yourself

Do your own research - before hiring any contractor or purchasing a home improvement service, be sure to do your own research and contact a service provider directly rather than allowing door-to-door salespeople into your home.

Never sign anything on the spot - scammers often employ high-pressure sales tactics to try to force you into making impulsive decisions. A legitimate contractor will provide information, answer your questions, and allow you to take your time to decide. If you feel rushed or pushed into signing a contract, step back and reconsider your options.

Ask for help - involve a trusted family member or friend in the decision-making process. If you need home improvement services, involve a trusted person in the process to help you assess the legitimacy of a contractor or an offer.

Remember that financial abuse is not your fault - you can say “no” when someone pressures you for money or to buy something. Make sure you understand every document you sign and never sign blank documents. Remember, financial abuse is a violation of your rights. It is not your fault, and you can get help. The CBA has a list on its website of where you can go for help.

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