A businessman is warning Edmonton contractors to watch out for fraudulent contracts, after he was nearly caught up in a renovation scam.
Al Shaw, owner of A Shaw Roofing, says fraudsters are using vacant homes to glean critical financial information, and cash, from local contractors.
"If we would have fallen for the scam, we would have been out the $6,000 and may have had our company bank account emptied in the process."
It started when Shaw received a text message from a potential client. The man indicated he had just purchased a home in Edmonton and needed to have the roof replaced.
Shaw drove over to inspect the home, drew up a quote and emailed it to the client who, within just a few minutes, signed off on the work.
But Shaw soon started feeling suspicious.
"Something just didn't seem right."
A "For Sale" sign was posted on the front lawn; the house appeared empty; and the client refused to meet in person. A call to the realtor confirmed Shaw's suspicions. The house was indeed vacant, and still in search of a buyer.
Shaw, curious to see how this scam worked, decided to ask his client a trick question.
"I had asked him if he had planted the beautiful rose bushes around the property. But, of course there weren't any. I just wanted to see what his response would be. And he told me that his wife had planted them because she loved beautiful flowers."
It was then that Shaw confronted the client who hung up the phone. CBC News tried contacting the client in question, but has not heard back.
"I've been in this industry for 25 years, and I've never seen anything like it," Shaw said. "It was like a highly evolved email scam."
Shaw said the scammers hire a contractor to perform exterior renovations to the home where entrance or access to the home is not required.
When the work is complete, the contractor is asked to provide bank account information so the client can pay for the renos. The scammer then uses to empty the company's bank account, Shaw said.
A spokesperson with Edmonton Police Service said financial scams are becoming increasingly common in the city, but could not say how many cases like Shaw's have been reported.