Jody Costello got burned by one of the oldest scams in the book. A contractor’s shoddy home construction work had left her no choice but to take him to court.
Meanwhile, Marlene Caroselli was tricked into handing over hundreds of copies of her new book to an aspiring entrepreneur.
Here are their stories — and advice on dealing with a scammer in person…
The conning contractor
Jody Costello’s terrible experience with a contractor was so impactful, she decided to launch her own website about it. She is the founder of Contractors From Hell.
“On my website, I share the warning signs folks need to know to avoid a shady contractor,” Costello says. “It’s so common in this industry to get fooled by a smooth-talking contractor whose only goal is to get into your pocket book and get away with as much as they can.”
On her site, Costello details multiple problems she had with the contractor as construction began. Early construction even caused serious health problems for her and her husband.
“It was during this time that I also began to get ill with what I thought was probably the flu,” Costello wrote. “Then the most intense and painful headaches that I’ve ever experienced. The following weekend my husband started to feel ill.”
Little did Costello know, the construction crew had torn off the vent to the hot water heater. Carbon monoxide gas was leaking into the house.
To top it off, the contractor was blowing off every concern that Costello brought to him, including the carbon monoxide leak. Poor roof work had also let rainwater leak in and caused mold to spread in the house.
After months of delayed and failed construction was stretched into years, Costello knew her only option was to take the contractor to court. In the end, a settlement was finally reached and justice was served.
Costello’s advice for avoiding a contractor scam:
“Get an attorney to write up a contract or review the one that is presented to you by the contractor. Make sure everything and anything you want is in your contract, including damages and who pays for it.”
The sob story scammer
Author Marlene Caroselli admits that she can be too trusting — even towards people she just met.
Shortly after self-publishing a book, Caroselli was contacted by a woman who wanted to buy 500 copies for her workshop class.
The problem: She didn’t have the money yet.
“After listening to her lengthy sob-stories, I felt sorry for her,” Caroselli said. The woman told her she was an entrepreneur who had fallen upon hard times.
She took the woman out to eat dinner and even let her stay in her home for a night so she wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel. Caroselli eventually agreed to give up the books, if the woman could send her checks as she sold them.
“When she said she would need some time to pay me, I believed the time would come,” said Caroselli. “After I helped her load the books into the trunk of her car, she assured me she would mail me a check after she had sold the first 100.”
That was the last time Caroselli would see the woman or her books.
“The best advice I can offer is to ask for at least half of the money up front,” Caroselli said. “And to check out the credentials of those with whom you do business.”