Fighting Contractor Fraud: A lifelong mission
BY PHAE MOORE | June 1, 2021
Her name was Addie Lee. She was loving, giving, beautiful and strong. She was also elderly, poor, and raising 6 grandchildren on her own.
Every time it rained, the family took turns emptying buckets of water that collected beneath her leaking roof, while she scraped together enough money to have it repaired. Not understanding the risk associated with trusting a stranger with a professional demeanor, she gave the money to that shady contractor, and never saw him again.
She was my grandmother. I was one of the kids emptying buckets so for her to get ripped off, well, that pissed me off!
My grandmother’s experience inspired me to start the National Alliance Against Home Repair Fraud in 2009. I originally named it the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud; I wanted people to be clear on what our mission was from the name of our organization, but the initial name was more than a mouthful.
In the beginning I thought that we would provide this service specifically to seniors. Yeah, wrong! I quickly learned that disaster victims, first-time homebuyers; low wealth communities; those who speak English as a second language; the physically impaired; and women were all in need of our assistance. Now, don’t think for a second that it’s just these vulnerable communities who get scammed. Mayors, celebrities, lawyers, doctors, CEOs, etc., even insurance professionals, have also been victims of shady contractors. I even met a police chief in New Jersey who had been ripped off. (He made me promise not to ever say the name of the town!) The biggest group of people who get ripped off are the ones who think they are smarter than a contractor. Their comment is always “I should have known better.”
I even remember getting a call from a woman who told me she was ripped off by her pastor! Imagine that!
Since 2009, we have educated over 350,000 homeowners on how to protect themselves from home repair fraud and scams. There are no real, solid statistics on contractor fraud but from our work over the years, we estimate it to be a $13 billion a year problem. I dream of the day when NAAHRF can be the home of concrete, targeted statistical data on the subject, so the powers that be can see what we see and support our effort to protect homeowners.
Over the past 10+ years, we’ve held workshops all over the country. Our panel typically includes elected officials (usually mayors, insurance commissioners or council members), insurance professionals, local law enforcement, local building and zoning officials, investigative reporters, and local attorneys. We proudly hold a 98% approval rate from attendees. The other 2% didn’t hate us, they just wished that we would recommend contractors. If there is a way to work with legitimate contractors somewhere down the line, especially after disasters, we may consider it. But for now, we want to maintain our reputation as a safe and unbiased resource for homeowners to go to when they have questions about their home repair/rebuild/remodel projects.
There are so many people who are impacted by this issue. That’s why in 2020, the National Alliance Against Home Repair Fraud released the Home Repair Navigator app, which is an educational tool for homeowners to use to become their own quality control managers. At this point, the App is just educational, but our plan is to make it more interactive in the near future by “holding the hand of the homeowner” and walking them through the process of hiring a contractor.
Since joining the Coalition in 2012, our organization has grown tremendously. It now boasts tech companies, major insurance carriers and trade associations, law enforcement, regulators, consumer advocates and more, as allies. I’m hoping that this blog serves as an introduction to the Coalition’s many new fraud fighters and a re-introduction to those that were on board when the Alliance joined.
We’re still here fighting–– all these years later–– on behalf of Addie and so many like her, to stop shady contractors from taking advantage of vulnerable homeowners. Please get involved and support our cause, by visiting our website at www.naahrf.org.
It is our goal to make a difference.
I’m proud to be a member of the Coalition, and aspire to be as impactful in my mission as they are in theirs.
About the author: Phae Moore is the Executive Director of the National Alliance Against Home Repair Fraud. She can be reached at [email protected].