Saturday, February 21, 2009

West Valley City, Utah Alert Of Driveway Repair Scam Was A False Alarm, But Watch Out For Scammers Who Claim Your Driveway Is Out Of Code Compliance

Late on February 20th, 2009, KSL Channel 5 posted a story about another driveway repair scam in the works along Utah's Wasatch Front. However, the story, which was posted HERE, returns an error message now as of this post.

I originally didn't believe they pulled the story because of content. If you view KSL's Local News Page, you'll find that no stories are posted between 10 P.M. on Feb. 20 and 9 A.M. on Feb. 21. Such a gap simply doesn't happen normally, so this indicated to me the story was unavailable for technical reasons.

The scam alert originated from West Valley City. Typically, scammers approach a homeowner and inform them that his driveway is out of compliance with municipal code. Perhaps the scammer might even tell you a B.S. story about how he "worked for the city" for umpteen billion years and so that makes him a walking expert. To correct the "problem", the scammer will offer a "special deal" to re-pave your driveway if you pay up front...and then the scammer will use cold mix asphalt.

One little problem - cold mix asphalt DOES NOT LAST, according to Layne Morris, who is the director of West Valley City's Community Preservation Department, which also oversees the code enforcement division. He also states that WVC's code enforcement officers "don't work that way", meaning they don't drive around randomly trawling for "driveway violations". Morris also asserts that a driveway paved with cold mix asphalt will not last into the summer.

This, of course, is the policy for West Valley City alone. Perhaps other Wasatch Front communities work differently. In any event, if someone representing himself as a code enforcement officer for your community tries to tell you your driveway is out of code compliance, insist on seeing city I.D. and call the responsible office to verify the individual does indeed work for the city (if you live in an unincorporated area, substitute "county" for "city"). And legitimate code enforcement officers will NEVER try to sell you a driveway repair job or even recommend a specific company.

Above all, NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER purchase a driveway repair job from a door-to-door solicitor who you do not personally know. Reputable contractors do not solicit custom in that fashion.

However, since that time, West Valley City has posted a clarification on their official website, which now leads me to believe KSL pulled the story deliberately:

An advisory released yesterday [Feb 20]indicated that a contractor had been working throughout West Valley City and was misrepresenting the fact that they were working with the blessing of the City.

The contractor in question has been contacted, and City officials realize that this was a case of miscommunication between the residents and the City. The contractor has not misrepresented themselves in any way, and is a legitimate contractor working in West Valley City.

Unfortunately a story aired on KSL News Radio indicating that some work being performed may not be quality work, and that contractors may be scamming residents. Again, this was a miscommunication on the part of West Valley City.

We sincerely apologize, and encourage anyone with questions or concerns to contact the City. We also encourage our residents to investigate and research any contractors completing work on their property to ensure that they are legitimate.

Any questions may be directed to Aaron Crim at 801-963-3466 or 801-232-0466.

Nevertheless, driveway repair scammers normally begin preying on local residents during the late spring and summer months, so now is the time for people to become better informed, so I decided to post this information anyway. A group called the Irish Travelers is notorious for pushing driveway repair scams. They travel from city to city during the summertime. However, they normally stay put during the winter, so any scammers operating in the Wasatch Front this time of year are probably local. Read a previous post about an 87-year-old Provo resident who was targeted by driveway repair scammers in August 2008.

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