The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning to homeowners about scam artists offering a cheap, quick fix for driveways in the Winnipeg area.

The individuals have approached some people saying their crew just finished repaving someone else's driveway and they have leftover asphalt. They then offer to fix up the homeowner's driveway at a cut-rate with the excess material.

'People are going to basically think they've got the opportunity to have a very quick job done at a very, very cheap price, and that notion of greed kicks in.' —Amaro Silva, Better Business Bureau of Manitoba

But what they're actually putting on the driveway is nothing more than motor oil and sand, said Amaro Silva, executive director of the Better Business Bureau of Manitoba. In the end, the homeowner spends more money repairing the shoddy work done by the fraudsters, he said.

"People are going to basically think they've got the opportunity to have a very quick job done at a very, very cheap price, and that notion of greed kicks in, and the excitement around it kicks in, and people lose their heads and get taken," said Silva.

Some of the individuals are unlicensed contractors and others aren't even authorized to work in Canada, stated a news release from the bureau in conjunction with the Winnipeg Police Service, Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) and the Manitoba Consumers' Bureau.

"In recent weeks, the Winnipeg police, CBSA and Consumers' Bureau have been actively seeking to disrupt the operations of these 'contractors' who have taken advantage of unsuspecting homeowners," states the news release.

"Police have arrested one foreign national for working in Canada without authorization. Two others are currently being sought, [and] the Winnipeg police commercial crime unit also holds an arrest warrant for one other individual for charges stemming under the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Acts."

Scam artists, known in enforcement circles as "travelers," usually come through Manitoba this time of year, sometimes operating in rural communities, the bureau said. The individuals typically stay in a community for only a short time, making it difficult for police to identify them, locate them and find evidence against them.

The Manitoba Consumers' Bureau has offered the following suggestions when considering hiring home renovation or repair contractors:

  • If approached by a door-to-door salesperson, ask to see their direct seller's licence. If the salesperson cannot produce a valid licence, write down the person's name and the name and address of the company represented and contact the Consumers' Bureau.
  • Ask for and check references in order to verify the quality of a contractor's work.
  • Get written quotes from at least three suppliers outlining the work to be done, materials to be supplied, labour specifications, total cost and cost breakdown, amount of deposit required and start and completion dates.
  • Read the whole contract before signing and keep a copy of it. If something is unclear, consider contacting a lawyer for advice before signing the contract, especially if the cost is substantial.

The Manitoba Consumers' Bureau investigates complaints about unlicensed direct sellers, high-pressure sales tactics, poor quality products and workmanship, contracts for unnecessary work and scams. For further information or advice, contact the bureau at 204-945-3800 or toll-free at 1-800-782-0067.

A copy of the brochure called "Home Improvements Sold by Direct Sellers" can be found on the bureau's website.

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of a scam or has information about individuals who may be responsible for such activities is encouraged to contact the consumers' bureau, the police or Crime Stoppers at 786-TIPS (8477).