Common Electrician Scams

Most electricians aren’t crooks, but here’s how to spot the few bad apples when hiring.

Your home wiring isn’t indestructible and will eventually need repair, upgrading or complete replacement. Safely fixing electrical issues means finding a reputable electrician, but this may be easier said than done. Not all contractors have the same ability or standard of service, and some will attempt outright fraud. Here are three common scams to avoid:

Changing cost
Electrical work isn’t cheap. Some contractors take advantage of this fact to overcharge customers, and this takes two typical forms. In the first, your “professional” electrician arrives, quickly looks at your problem and tells you the expensive repair you were expecting will in fact cost much less than anticipated. You, of course, agree to the terms, and before long the contractor is working away. After a few days, however, costs begin to rise. Maybe it’s materials, or the job has suddenly become more complicated, but before long you’re paying double or triple what you expected.

Shady electricians may also start by quoting an astronomical cost, but justify it by saying they use only top-quality parts or that they offer a warranty through a national network. In many cases, these are actually fly-by-night companies or single contractors who don’t have the expertise necessary to complete the work. Although they may finish the job, it won’t be up to code – and when you try to have it rectified, your “trustworthy” electrician is nowhere to be found. Always get three estimates before signing off on any work, and check references. Sites like Angie’s List can also help you find well-reviewed professionals in your area.

The fast-talking electrician
In this scam, electricians use their knowledge of technical subject matter to overwhelm homeowners. While you’re probably familiar with terms like knob-and-tube wiring — which is no longer permitted in new homes because of a tendency to short out and cause fires — you may not know all the details associated with wiring or cable products. Wire, for example, carries label information such as the acronym THHN, which means it has thermoplastic insulation, heat resistance up to 194 degree Fahrenheit, and won’t be damaged by oil or gas. Cable is another popular electrical product and can be armored, metal-clad, coaxial or non metallic (NM).

Disreputable contractors may start throwing around technical terms as soon as they walk through the door, and won’t be interested in explaining any of them. They’ll make your repair seem both dire and overly complicated, in effect pressuring you into signing on for work even though you’re not really comfortable.

The complete rewire
This one starts innocently enough. The electrician offers to do a free inspection of the wiring in your home, and at first doesn’t find anything wrong. But after looking more closely, it’s discovered that the entire electrical system needs to be replaced — and it needs to be replaced right now. The electrician may talk about safety and compliance, and may mention that your wiring doesn’t meet local code. The idea here is to get you so panicked you’ll agree to anything, effectively giving the electrician carte blanche to do whatever he or she wants in your home. You could be left with anything from holes in your walls to hidden wiring problems, which are far more dangerous than anything “found.”

Beating this scam means knowing local building codes and keeping records of any repairs you’ve had done in your home. Before any property is finished and ready for sale, it needs to be approved by the city — always make sure your house has the proper permits, which often takes the form of a sticker in your basement or a letter indicating compliance. This way, when your would-be electrician tries to convince you of a compliance issue, you’ll know better.

These scammers are all sizzle and no spark. If you confront them about supposed problems in your home with hard facts, their “inspection” will suddenly show a home free of any serious issues. Hiring a reliable electrician isn’t always easy, but you can avoid the worst of the bunch by knowing the telltale signs of these common scams.

Most electricians aren’t crooks, but here’s how to spot the few bad apples when hiring.

Source: Common Electrician Scams | Angie’s List