AARP expert warns Hawaiʻi homeowners to beware of contractor fraud

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A fraud watch network consultant with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has provided a list of tips to help homeown avoid being scammed by fake contractors in Hawaiʻi, suspecting an increase in fraud to occur as Lahaina begins to rebuild from last yearʻs devastating wildfires on Maui.

Fraud watch network consultant Paul Greenwood spoke at AARP Hawai`i Fight Fraud Together seminars in Kona and Hilo this week. (Courtesy of AARP Hawaiʻi

Paul Greenwood, who is also a former deputy district attorney that specialized in crimes against older residents, successfully prosecuted fraudulent contractors after fires in 2007 destroyed 1,738 homes and burned more than 368,000 acres in San Diego County.

“Disasters unfortunately attract crooked contractors,” said Greenwood, who spoke at AARP Hawai`i Fight Fraud Together seminars in Kona and Hilo this week. “They are looking for vulnerable homeowners.”

“Maui residents looking to rebuild should be especially alert for contractor fraud. But building and remodeling scams can happen to any of us anywhere in the state, including Hawai`i Island, and we all need to know what to do and what are the warning signs,” said Keali`i Lopez, AARP Hawai`i state director.


Greenwood said fraudulent contractors try to convince homeowners that they can give them a discount and can complete the job quickly. “They try to persuade the homeowner that by trusting them, they will save money and bypass red tape.”

One of the biggest warning sign is high pressure sales tactics, he said. “Don’t be bullied into signing a contract. If they tell you the offer is only valid for 48 hours, that’s ridiculous,” Greenwood said.

Other tips for fighting back against contractor scams:

  • Get three quotes.
  • Check Out contractors with the Better Business Bureau
  • Check their contractor’s license with the Contractor’s License Board.
  • Get a copy of their license.
  • Get the license plate of any vehicles on the job.
  • Always pay by check or credit card.
  • Never pay by cash.
  • Photograph every step of the construction.
  • Don’t pay more than you need to for each step of the work.

“They (fraudulent contractors) will try any which method to persuade you that they are the right guy including senior discounts and fake home tests that claim to show leaks or termite activity” Greenwood said. “I prosecuted a guy who put flyers on the windshields of cars in church parking lots hoping to gain parishioner’s trust.”

For more tips on fighting fraud, visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network website at The AARP Fraud Watch Network also offers a helpline to report fraud and support victims of fraud at 877-908-3360.

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