A garage door is an important household fixture. It allows you to conveniently enter and exit your home while providing a barrier against intruders and the elements. However, like all pieces of equipment, it breaks down on occasion — and when this happens, chances are that you’ll want to have it fixed as quickly as possible.
Sadly, there are scammers out there who, taking advantage of customers’ desperation and ignorance about garage doors, will grossly overcharge for simple, inexpensive repairs. Read our guide to learn about common tricks that garage door scammers use, ways to recognize these swindlers and how to find a trustworthy garage door company.
Types of Garage Door Scams
Garage door scammers commonly run their business from national call centers, where they send out their “technicians” to the customers’ homes. Here are some common tricks they use to rob unsuspecting customers of their money:
1. The Rebuild Package Scam
One garage door repair scam that homeowners encounter is being told that they need a complete garage door replacement when a simple repair would suffice.
Broken garage doors are typically due to a malfunctioning of one of the following parts:
- The lock button is on.
- The electric eye is misaligned.
- The remote control is broken.
- The motor has burned out.
- The chain is broken.
The first two problems are easy fixes that anyone could handle, but most homeowners, knowing very little about garage door repairs, just start searching for a garage door repair company. Desperate to have their door fixed before it gets dark, they contact the first company with a “garage door repair” ad that they come across — which sometimes ends up being a scammer.
A common scam scenario is that the repairman will perform an inspection and tell the customers that they need to completely replace their garage door system. To sound more convincing, they may fabricate some details, such as saying that new rollers, cables, torsion springs and bearing brackets are needed.
In reality, the issue is a simple problem, such as an electronic eye that is not aligned properly and just needs a slight adjustment. This repair usually takes less than a minute and costs no more than $75, but victims of this scam may pay over $400 to replace their functioning garage door.
2. The Lifetime Guarantee Scam
A lifetime guarantee for your garage door may sound like a great deal, but it can actually be another sign of a scam. This is because scammers use a trick — the technicians will install a cheap, unreliable part — often springs — that they know will fail. When it breaks down, which is sure to happen quickly, you will naturally call on them to repair it. The company will then come and replace the component with another cheap part and charge an exorbitant fee for their service. The part they replaced will break again soon, meaning you’ll be calling on them again in the near future.
Many people assume a lifetime guarantee means they won’t be charged for anything ever again, and scammers take advantage of people who make this assumption.
3. The Unidentified Technician Scam
Some companies will post ads for their business as if their own in-house employees will be handling the repairs. Then, they subcontract the task to an unlicensed independent contractor who cannot be contacted if something goes wrong.
It is fairly common to hire subcontractors in the construction industry. Building a pool, for example, requires subcontractors to divide up all the work. One team does the excavation, one team lays the foundation and another one is in charge of the finishing work. This is not always broken down for the customer.
This is also the case with many garage door businesses. When it comes to more complicated projects, sometimes tasks must be subcontracted to multiple teams. One professional may be more experienced in working with garage door springs, for example, while another one has more experience replacing the door itself. This is a common practice, and scammers often use it to their advantage.
Scammers will often subcontract the work to another party without telling you or providing you with any information about the subcontractor. Then, they will take all the money for themselves.
How to Recognize a Garage Door Scam
Many customers end up getting scammed because they are desperate to have their door fixed quickly and fail to recognize many of the warning signs of garage door scams. Here are some of the most common red flags to look out for:
- There are no logos or other identifying marks: If your repairman drives an unmarked van, has no uniform or anything else to identify his company, this is a likely sign of a scammer. Most garage repair companies proudly display their logos.
- They give false names: Scammers that do display names will often use multiple, generic or confusing names. Check to see if your repair service’s brand name is consistent across their site, in advertisements, in phone greetings, on vehicles, uniforms and paperwork.
- The company claims to have acquired another company: If the company name they provide over the phone is different from the name you found in the ad, they will commonly explain that this is because they bought the other company. This is most likely the sign of a scam.
- They hide information about their company: If the company is hesitant or unclear about providing any information about themselves, this should raise suspicion. Legitimate garage door companies will not hide information from you regarding who they are, their location, and how you can reach them. They want it to be easy for you to contact them and develop a lasting relationship.
- They’re located far away: If the service company tells you that their office is far from where you live, this is also a red flag. The company you hire should be located close enough that you could easily visit their office and even ask to speak to the owner.
- They charge exceptionally high prices: Before searching for a technician in your area, look around online and get an idea of what a repair or installation typically costs. If a price seems exorbitant, ask the company why. If they can’t explain, search for another company.
- They charge exceptionally low prices: Garage doors cost a particular amount, and the installation costs a particular amount. If a price seems unrealistically low for a repair, this is also a sign of a scammer, and chances are that they’re using cheap materials and the repair will not last very long.
- They give an overall charge without having seen the door: If your repairman charges you before even knowing your situation, it is likely to be a scam. A legitimate garage door repair company will instead tell you their rates, including their hourly rate, the rate of labors and what they charge for travel. They will not provide an overall cost until they have assessed your situation.
- They ask for money in advance: Requesting to be paid in advance is never done by professional garage door repair companies, but scammers will occasionally request it — and then may never show up for the repair.
- They request you pay in cash: Requesting to be paid in cash is another warning sign, as some dishonest servicemen may later claim that you never paid them at all.
Tips for Avoiding Scams and Finding a Reputable Garage Door Company
To avoid scammers and find a reputable garage door repair service, follow these steps:
1. Educate yourself about garage doors.
The first step you should take to avoid scams is to educate yourself about how garage doors work, including the name and function of each part. One way to learn about this is by chatting with a technician when he or she installs your garage door system. If this isn’t possible, do some online research and see if you can diagnose your problem. If you happen to know that the motor is functioning properly, for example, but your technician tells you that you need to replace your entire system, you’ll know you’re dealing with a scammer.
2. Research companies.
When searching for a company, resist the temptation of going with the first one you find. Instead, do some in-depth research:
- Check for reviews. Ask friends and family for referrals, and search Yelp and social media sites for local companies with good reviews. Make sure that the reviews are genuine and not forged. You can also check out reviews from theBetter Business Bureau.
- Confirm their physical address. Make sure the company has an actual address and try to locate it on Google Maps. You should also verify that the phone number is real. Looking for photos of the business and owners is another good idea. Make sure that the pictures were not stolen from another website.
- Look for associations and accreditations. A company is more likely to be legitimate if it’s associated with reputable organizations. Look for the“IDA” logo, which means the company is part of the International Door Association. Members of this organization agree to adhere to a code that prohibits unethical activities. Search for the “IDEA Accreditation” as well. This is the only independent, third-party credential for businesses that install and repair garage doors. Companies that have been accredited have proven they know the practices and safety procedures of the industry.
- Look for social media presence. Confirm whether the company has a page on Facebook or other social media. Do other websites mention the company?
3. Call the companies.
If the company is legitimate, you should be able to call them between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. If they answer, here are some good questions to ask:
- What is your physical address?
- Do all your employees have operating licenses?
- Is your company bonded?
- Do your vehicles display your company’s name or do you use subcontractors?
- Does your company have liability insurance coverage?
- Do your employees have accident insurance?
“Bonded” means that if the company does a poor job or abandons the project, you are protected financially.
Liability insurance covers their liability while they’re on the job, meaning that if a technician gets injured at your home, you won’t be liable.
4. Examine and question the technician.
When the technician comes to your home, make sure to do the following things:
- See if the repairman’s vehicle has a company logo. Does it match the name of the company you found online?
- Check if the repairman is wearing a uniform with the company’s name on it. Does he or she have a nametag?
- Make sure to request a written estimate. This way you’ll get an idea of what you have to spend up front.
- Ask to see a service agreement. Sometimes, what companies tell you can be completely different from what is written in your contract or service agreement. If a technician says something is covered, but there is no mention of it in the agreement, then they are not legally obligated to fulfill that promise. Although this is clearly unethical, no legal action can be taken against this.
- If a part needs to be replaced, ask the technician why. They should be able to give you a detailed answer. If they tell you that your garage door may collapse if a certain component isn’t replaced, they may be trying to scare you into buying unnecessary parts.
- Have the repairman explain the function of the part.
- If they offer a warranty, make sure that the labor is included.
- If the labor is included, ask to see the warranty in writing.
- Request a detailed invoice that shows all the components that have been replaced. Make sure you the company didn’t double-charge you for any items. There should also be an explanation of the fees and some warranty options included.
Although many scams involve lifetime warranties, not all lifetime warranties are scams. If you have any doubts about a warranty offered to you, check it out on the manufacturer’s site.
Contact Oregon City Garage Door Today
If you live in or around Portland, Ore., and are in need of any garage door services, look no further than Oregon City Garage Door. For 25 years we have provided garage door installation, replacement, repair and maintenance services to the greater Portland area. If your repair is urgent, we will be at your door quickly with everything needed to make a quality repair.
We offer a wide selection of sturdy, attractive garage doors, including steel, wood and aluminum. These doors come in a variety of styles, including carriage house-style, classical traditional and modern, and are available in many colors so you can easily match them with your home’s exterior.
To complement your garage door purchase, we also offer LiftMaster® garage door openers. These cutting-edge devices operate smoothly and quietly and allow you to operate the doors from anywhere you can get a WiFi connection. These devices will also notify you whenever your door is opened or closed.
To schedule an appointment or learn more about our services, call us at 503-632-3070 or fill out our contact form. Our professional consultants will be happy to speak with you and assist you in choosing a door based on your budget, needs and style preferences.