The $200 check Chris Fornal of Milwaukee left beneath his doormat was gone, as was the asphalt paving contractor who had promised to do inexpensive work.
Dawn Brown of Waterford found that a promise made at her front door for cheap asphalt paving was simply a scam to relieve her of $3,800.
The damaged driveways left from paving scam artists create a lot of cleanup work for reputable contractors, who get repeated calls for help, said Troy Loomis, president and owner of Merit Asphalt Inc., Muskego.
Loomis said his firm often fixes shoddy driveway repairs or finishes incomplete jobs.
John Poblocki, owner of Poblocki Paving Corp., West Allis, said he has seen unscrupulous pavers lay asphalt driveways in such a thin layer that flowers and weeds poke through in a couple of weeks.
“I really don’t know how they can lay down such a thin layer, less than an inch thick,” Poblocki said. “ I don’t think that I can even do it.”
He said that without proper grading and pitch, a driveway can send water flowing into basements.
According to the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau, this is the season unethical paving contractors prey on trusting homeowners. In the past 12 months, the bureau has received 43 complaints from Wisconsin residents against paving companies, up from 36 complaints in the previous year.
A common scam is that homeowners are approached by an asphalt representative and offered a deal on driveway repair or repaving, said Randall Hoth, president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin BBB.
That’s what happened to Brown.
“Men came to the door and said they had some leftovers (asphalt), and they offered to pave our gravel driveway,” Brown said. “They said we would not ever get a cheaper price.”
She agreed and the asphalt was poured that evening without grading the existing drive, she said. Brown wrote them a check.
The next morning, she found an inch-thick layer of asphalt. Putting a small trailer on the new surface left a groove in the driveway, she said.
Two and half inches of compacted asphalt is the minimum thickness for a solid asphalt drive, and there should be a minimum of six inches of stone base, Loomis said.
“They’re looking for the quick buck, and they’re heading down the road,” Loomis said.
When Brown called to complain, the one phone number on the business card, her sole link to the paver, was disconnected and the other directed her calls to Mississippi.
Fornal said he was a victim of a similar con.
“A man and a woman had offered to do some work on the driveway,” Fornal said. “We were leaving to go out of town and thought it was the ideal time to have the driveway fixed.
“When we came home, the work wasn’t done and the check was gone.”
The telephone number Fornal called to ask about the work and check was disconnected.
“I learned you should never pay up front,” he said. “It’s my fault for doing that.”