Home Repair Scam Artists Target Elderly in Northern Virginia

Several months ago I listed a house for a client who lives just a few blocks away.  It was actually her elderly mother who lived alone in the house and the family had decided it was time for her to move to southern Virginia where she would be closer to her children.  One of the things that prompted this move was a home repair scam that left the mother $60,000 poorer, angry and exceedingly frustrated.

An article in today’s Washington Post reminded me just how vulnerable elderly home owners are when it comes to unscrupulous individuals.

Police call them ‘woodchucks’  – men who cruise older established neighborhoods in Northern Virginia, looking for elderly women who live alone and can be easily manipulated or intimidated.  What are they looking for specifically?  Neighborhoods with big trees, fewer children, slightly run down houses; older sedans like Cadillacs or Crown Victoria’s with handicapped tags or stickers; no SUV’s or child seats.

The scam can often begin with a legitimate job at an outrageous price or it can be work performed in a location that the elderly target cannot get to – like a roof or gutters.  If the homeowner cannot actually confirm that the work has been done then they are at the mercy of the ‘woodchucks’ who might return under the pretense of additional repairs.

Adding to the dilemma is the fact that the victims might not remember how much money they agreed to or how much they have already paid out. Tack on embarrassment and fear of retribution and many of these crimes go unreported.

Police in Northern Virginia are beginning to target these scammers and one accused crew leader pleaded guilty in Fairfax Circuit Court last week.  For more about these scams and what to look for, click here.

In the meantime, be a good neighbor and keep your eyes open.