Monday, September 7, 2009

Beware the 'HDB' CON-tractor

Fraudsters use board's name to con residents into doing renovations

A CONTRACTOR showed up at her mother's flat earlier this year, and informed the illiterate 68-year-old that her squat toilet was illegal.

Madam Serene Goh's mum was told she had to change it to a pedestal toilet or risk being fined.

The man also said the Housing Board was checking on households in her estate, which was undergoing upgrading.

Madam Goh, a housewife in her 40s, said her mother was also asked to change a host of other fixtures in the flat that did not meet 'regulations'.

In the end, the senior citizen, who lives with her son, parted with over $900 to install a toilet bowl, which was very shoddily done, said Madam Goh. 'The contractor gave lots of false information to intimidate people. My mum changed her squat toilet because she thought she had better follow the law.'

The HDB is alerting the public not to fall prey to rogue contractors who use the board's name to con residents into making unnecessary renovations.

It told The Straits Times it had received complaints of touting by contractors who claim they are appointed by the HDB to carry out work in public flats. Such work includes the changing of doors, gates and windows; installation of security systems; and repair of spalling concrete.

The bogus contractors usually target HDB estates undergoing upgrading works, said the board. HDB said it does not track the number of such complaints but at least one suspected rogue contractor has been caught by the police.

Thean Nyoon Wee, 48, was charged in court last Friday with cheating. He is accused of posing as an HDB contractor and offering to replace residents' doors with fire-resistant models. He allegedly pocketed $1,760 meant for installing gates for these new doors.

HDB has put up notices in precincts where bogus contractors have struck to warn residents of their tricks. It has also sounded the alert on its website. Its spokesman said: 'Our advice to residents is to ignore these bogus contractors or make it clear to them that their services are not wanted. They should also call the police if the contractors persist in harassing them and do not go away even after being told to do so.'

The Yew Tee Zone 9 Residents' Committee (RC), has also warned residents of rogue contractors, after two people there were conned.

One of them, said the RC's secretary Vincent Chia, was a housewife who paid $580 for a gate for her front door, a price which she later found to be very steep when she asked around her neighbours.

The housewife said a man, claiming to be an HDB contractor, came by in April and told her the HDB would paint the front of her door for free and offered her a special rate to change her gate.

The woman, who declined to be interviewed, told Mr Chia in an e-mail message: 'In our ignorance, we agreed without knowing the market price for the gate, since we thought authorised HDB contractors will not con us when it comes to pricing.'

How to verify identity
THE Housing Board (HDB) will inform flat owners in advance whenever there is maintenance or rectification work to be done within a flat.

Residents will be notified of the appointed contractor's details and the schedule of work to be done, through notices posted at the notice boards at the block concerned.

HDB officers are also issued with a staff card bearing their photograph, which they use to identify themselves.

If their work seems suspicious, residents can ask to see the staff card or call the HDB branch office service on 1800-225-5432 to verify the identity of the officer.

An HDB spokesman advised: 'Residents who had been misled or suspect they have been misled by contractors who pretended to be HDB officers should also report the matter to the police.'

Source: Straits Times, 7 Sep 2009

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