'You just can't trust anyone:' Elderly Halifax couple warns of home repair scam

The cuprits claim to be from Halifax company Fine Line Roofing and Masonry.  (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)
The cuprits claim to be from Halifax company Fine Line Roofing and Masonry. (Steve Bruce/CBC - image credit)

The men were friendly, professional and looked the part — but they were not who they said they were, and now Linda and Bill French are out $500.

The Halifax couple were recently the victims of a home repair scam involving a group of men posing as workers from a local company called Fine Line Roofing and Masonry.

The scam appears to be happening in both Halifax and Kingston, Ont. Police in both cities have issued press releases describing similar incidents and warning residents to be on guard.

Linda French said three men — roughly 30, 45 and 60 years old — arrived on her doorstep in the west end of Halifax last Friday saying they were working in the area and had extra mortar that was going to go to waste if it wasn't used that day.

Younger culprit looked 'nervous'

The oldest man said he noticed there was mortar missing from the bricks on her house, and that they wanted to go up on the roof to check them.

French, who is in her 70s, agreed.

"[The youngest man] showed me how the bricks just lifted off…. So the boss said, 'This is very dangerous. If you're walking in front of the house, it could fall and hit you on the head, or they could roll and hit your car,'" said French in an interview on Thursday.

"Instead of coming down with his hands and feet, [the youngest man] came down the ladder on his bottom, and was really nervous. Looking back, he had probably never been up on a roof in his life."

French said she consulted with her husband, Bill, who is in his 80s.

"He said, 'If it's that dangerous, you better have something done,'" she said.

Submitted by Fine Line Roofing and Masonry
Submitted by Fine Line Roofing and Masonry

The man gave her a quote of $1,700 for the repairs. When she told him she couldn't afford that, he asked what she could afford, to which she replied $600. He then asked if she could do $800.

"I thought, 'Boy am I lucky. This is less than half price," said French.

In hindsight, that was a major red flag.

The crew, which left her house in a black pickup truck, took a $500 deposit and said they would be back on Monday to complete the work. They never returned.

"For them to stand there and carry on conversation and look you right in the eye, we thought they were such nice people. They were even holding my dog," said French.

"You'd never know they weren't legitimate."

'You just can't trust anyone'

She said she thinks the scammers may have picked on them because they are elderly. She wants others in her age group to be careful when hiring contractors.

"Maybe we're more trustworthy," she said, adding that $500 is "a lot of money" to the couple. "They have to be more aware and alert, and you just can't trust anyone."

The perpetrators weren't just impersonating workers from Fine Line Roofing, they went to great lengths to make the scam seem legitimate by creating business cards and letterhead with the company name and logo on it.

Fine Line Roofing declined to comment. But the company has added a warning to its website, and sent CBC News notes taken from their own conversations with other victims of the scam.

Ontario man lost $8K

The notes said the culprits were also giving out a phone number that stated Fine Line in the voicemail message, and a Gmail address using the Fine Line name.

They said an elderly man in Kingston lost $8,200. In that case, the scammers told him his foundation was in disrepair and that the job would cost a total of $200,000.

A third victim in Halifax did not lose any money. They were made aware of the scam after calling Fine Line's real phone number.

Halifax police say they are investigating whether the incidents in Halifax and Kingston are connected.

Police in both cities are warning residents to always obtain reference checks when hiring contractors, especially when they show up at your door unannounced.

It's a mistake French won't make twice, and she isn't holding out hope that she'll ever see her $500 again.

"We just have to accept it and that's it. We don't even talk about it anymore because it's too upsetting."