INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - Gary Keesler is a handyman, who tries to get business by advertising on Craigslist. In his latest ad, Keesler offers a 15 percent discount to build decks and fences.
Kay Austin and her fiancé, Michael Morse of Independence, wanted a new deck. They saw Keesler's ads and hired him, paying $600 upfront.
"He would have it done by Monday. If he didn't have it done by Monday, he would refund our money and build or deck for us. That’s what he said,” Morse said.
That was earlier this month.
"We gave him the money and after we give him the money, there's no phone calls from him at all," said Kay Austin.
Keesler took their money and didn't do the job. The Independence couple had to hire other contractors and spend more money to build a new deck. After Keesler was a no-show, the couple Googled his name.
"I looked up Gary Keesler contractor and there you go, 41 News. And it's him,” Austin said.
They viewed the Call For Action report on Keesler in 2010. At that time, Keesler was paid $3,500 to build a privacy fence and install new windows for Colby Elliott of Kansas City. He never did the work.
Since then, Elliott tried to file a report with Kansas City police but was told to take the matter up in civil court. Elliott hired and paid different contractors to build the fence. Did she ever get her money back from Keesler?
"No. Not a dime,” Elliott said. "I’m surprised that it's not just me. It’s other people that are losing money still."
Call For Action contacted Gary Keesler by phone. Keesler promised to refund the couple’s $600. When asked if he ever plans to refund Colby Elliott her $3,500 she paid nearly two years ago, Keesler hung up the phone.
The Independence couple filed a report with Independence police. A detective was working the case and in contact with Keesler. Wednesday afternoon, Keesler met with the Austin, Morse and an Independence police detective to refund the couple their $600.
5 Tips to hiring a contractor:
Get everything in writing.
Get several references and check them out.
Check the business and owner with the Better Business Bureau.
Check the business and owner on public court websites.
Be extremely careful about giving money upfront.
Wednesday, the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud put out the following tips to avoid being scammed:
Avoid door-to-door contractors. You’re risking a world of trouble. Legitimate contractors normally are too busy to knock on doors.
Verify license. Contact your state and local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor is licensed.
Contact local Better Business Bureau. Does the contractor have a history of complaints? See if the contractor has a BBB review.
Work with your insurance company & agent. Don’t let the contractor do the talking. Work directly with your insurer to assess the damage & determine what repairs are covered. Get the right repairs done, and done right.
Insist on a contract. Have a signed contract specifying exactly what work will be done, plus the price and repair schedule. Never sign a contract with blanks.
Watch for red flags. No business cards or referrals, P. O. Box instead of a street address, van looks rundown and has no company name, poor personal appearance, can’t show proof of workers compensation insurance or surety/performance bond.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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