MELROSE (CBS) – Police in several Massachusetts communities are warning residents of an ongoing home improvement scam in which contractors force mostly elderly homeowners to pay for unnecessary repairs.

In Melrose, Police Chief Michael Lyle says workers actually damaged a chimney so the 91-year-old homeowner would have to pay to repair it. He says they used a cement like product and smeared it on the chimney to make the appearance of fixing a crack. “Clearly that was not the case,” said Chief Lyle.

He says they gained access to the chimney without the permission of the homeowner and showed photos of falling bricks which turned out to be fake. “He showed me the chimney and said that’s loose, that’s loose but of course they weren’t,” said the homeowner’s daughter who did not want to be identified.

Chimney work done by suspected scammer at Melrose home (WBZ-TV)

The supposed damage had them concerned and they were shown a business card with the name TC Roofing which looked legitimate. “This elderly person did not go up on the roof, they haven’t been on the roof in many years but now somebody comes around and tells them their chimney is falling down,” said Chief Lyle.

Fortunately no money was paid up front in this case. The workers promised to finish the job the next day, but by then the police were in the neighborhood and they never returned. “The next thing I know police were at my door saying they took away the ladders and to look out for that advertiser,” said neighbor Christin Rappa.

That advice is being heard in several communities where a similar scheme is happening. Police say it’s likely the same group using different company names.

“Get a contract and see if it’s legitimate,” said Chief Lyle. “Check with the Better Business Bureau and get references, absolutely references.”

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