It was a weekend in early November, and his team were enjoying some time off. So when Allen Shaw, owner of A. Shaw Roofing in Edmonton, received a text requesting a home roof replacement quote, he went to the address himself. Shaw drew up the quote, emailed it to the address supplied and received a go-ahead by text 10 minutes later.
Shaw had noticed the house seemed unoccupied and a ‘For Sale’ sign was on the lawn. That isn’t entirely unusual in itself, Shaw explained to Canadian Contractor. Absentee owners and landlords do request quotes and order work on homes from time to time.
Determined to get to the bottom of this, Shaw then texted “Josh’ and asked for a call-back. A man with a heavy accent identifying himself “Josh” said he was calling from Indiana, where he was receiving treatment for cancer. He couldn’t meet with Shaw but still wanted the work to go ahead. Asked how he would pay for the work, estimated to be about $6,000, “Josh” said he would transfer the funds into Shaw’s company bank account once he had the relevant information.The number given to Shaw for contacting Lawrence turned out to be a ‘protected number’ in Florida that could only receive text messages.
Shaw got creative. Knowing the scam was ’on’, Shaw played along further. “Those are beautiful new rose bushes around the property you have” said Shaw, knowing that in fact there were no such plants. “Josh” agreed, saying “his loving wife planted them as she loves flowers.”
Shaw then told “Josh” that the jig was up; he knew the house was not sold, that he had no connection to the house at all, and that the realtor had never heard of him. After a brief pause, the phone went dead.
Be on the lookout!
Although this story received wide media coverage in the Edmonton area, Shaw has not received any follow-up either from the Edmonton Police or Consumer Alberta. Nevertheless, Shaw wants contractors across Canada to be aware of this attempted scam. “They may even have local partners that visit the site to ensure the property is vacant, then hire a contractor to perform exterior renovations to the home as entrance or access to the home is not required. When the work is complete, the contractor provides bank account information which the scammer can then use to empty the company’s account. A smaller, less tech-savy or experienced company looking for some business might easily get fooled by something like this and get into a real mess.”