Beech Grove woman, 85, says contractor hired to repair roof scammed her

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 28, 2014)– The spring season means contractors are out in full force, making home repairs to damage caused by storms.  While many area contractors will perform good work, others are looking to take advantage of Hoosiers.

FOX59 is sending out a warning and taking action for you. We spoke with one woman who believes she was targeted because of her age.

At 85 years old, Patty works every day and cares for her disabled daughter inside their two-story home in Beech Grove.  She’s in desperate need of some roof repairs. In fact, she’s been in need for the last 18 months.  So what’s the hold up?  She blames contractor “Rick Lane” of Excel Construction and Restoration.

“He just acted like everything was OK, the way he talked and he treated me with a lot of respect and I just trusted him,” said Patty.

Turns out Patty trusted him a little too much.

No contract was signed and no documents were exchanged. Patty didn’t even think to ask any questions.

“I thought he knew what he was doing, and I didn’t,” she told us.

Patty says Lane convinced her to endorse her State Farm insurance claims check over to him.  That check totaled $3,076.53.

She expected her roof repairs to begin shortly after, but Patty was never able to get a hold of Rick. Ever.

“I just feel like I got took and I need my roof fixed,” she said.

Doing a basic search online, there is very little information about him.  FOX59 tried calling Lane, but there was no answer and his voicemail was full. There were also no responses after attempts to e-mail him.

Patty thought she was in good hands, because Lane had done past roofing repairs for her friend, Lemmie.

“We didn’t have any problems with him, but he was doing a lot of roofs at the time.  It makes me feel guilty and bad for recommending him because I really liked him, but because of her age, he took advantage of her,” said Lemmie.

According to Abby Kuzma from the Consumer Protection Department at the Attorney General’s Office, this is all pretty common.

“We see this all the time where elderly persons were targeted because they don’t have the same access to the internet and they’re not as suspicious as the rest of us are,” said Kuzma.

She also said there were a few things Patty should have done before committing to the project.

“You don’t just sign over the insurance check like that, bad idea, you want to pay perhaps one-third, no more than one-third.  Indiana law requires a written contract in a situation that involves more than $150 and that protects the homeowner,” said Kuzma.

Was there anything the insurance company could have done?

Insurance expert Paul Dumas from Crossroads Insurance says other than encourage Patty to use their preferred contractors, there’s really nothing else.

“Most insurance companies have preferred contractors that they use and the insurance company is essentially guaranteeing that the contractor is going to get the work done,” said Dumas.

Out $3,000 and still in need of those roof repairs, Patty says if she can ever afford to get the damage fixed she will be prepared.

“I could’ve been a little smarter about it,” she told FOX59.

To make matters worse, the day after we talked to Patty, she suffered a heart attack and had to undergo double-bypass surgery.

If you think you’ve been the victim of a contracting scam, be sure to file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.