Every year, out-of-state, illegitimate, blacktop contractors drive up to Minnesota to rip people off on their driveways. These contractors are not licensed in the state, don't pay any insurance or payroll taxes on their workers, and use shady tactics to get business. One of their tactics is to bait and switch unsuspecting customers by going door to door claiming they have extra asphalt from another job and can do your driveway for really cheap. Then after paving the driveway, let the customer know the cost ended up being much higher. They may use physical intimidation tactics to get paid. Their favorite targets are the elderly. They do horrible work and leave customers holding the bag. Don't fall for their tricks.

So how do you protect yourself? Here are some tips on how to pick a paving contractor.

1.      Check their physical address

Make sure the contractor you choose has a local physical address that isn't a virtual office or a PO box. This is important because it shows that the contractor has a real, established presence in the community. You can verify the address by looking it up on Google Maps or other online directories. If the contractor doesn't have a physical address or only provides a PO box, it's a red flag.

2.      Check their reviews

Reviews are a great way to get an idea of what to expect from a contractor. However, not all reviews are created equal. Make sure you check reviews on multiple sites, like Google, Angi, Facebook, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Look for reviews that are detailed and specific. Be wary of contractors with only a handful of reviews, especially if they are all glowing. Also, check to see if the reviews were all written in the same month, which could be a sign of fake reviews.

3.      Check their pictures

If the contractor has a website, check their pictures to see if they look like they were taken locally. This is the first year we’ve seen some of these companies create a website and Facebook page. They often use stock photos or photos from other companies to make their work look better than it is. If the pictures don't look like they were taken in your area, it could be a red flag.

4.      Choose a local, reputable contractor

The best way to protect yourself from scammer blacktoppers is to choose a local, reputable contractor. Look for a contractor who has been in business for several years, has a good reputation in the community, and is licensed and insured. Ask for references and check them. Don't be afraid to ask for proof of insurance. A reputable contractor will be happy to provide it.

5.      Check to see if they’re registered in Minnesota

Go to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to make sure contractor is registered in Minnesota, https://ims.dli.mn.gov/ims/Find3?cat=Pros. Select “Company Name/DBA” from the drop-down menu and type the name of the company in. If no results are found, that’s a red flag.

Picking the right paving contractor is important for the longevity and quality of your driveway; and your pocket book. By following these tips, you can protect yourself from unscrupulous blacktoppers and find a contractor who will do a great job at a fair price. Remember, always do your research before choosing a contractor, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

If you’ve been scammed by a blacktop contractor, please contact the following: