Why does someone ‘steal’ a driveway? Contractor explains how scam works

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Amanda Brochu never expected her missing driveway to capture the attention of Central Florida.


Thousands read about her situation: how shortly putting her house on the market, contractors began coming out to measure her driveway for a replacement project she never asked for.

Read: Single mother’s future in jeopardy after thief steals driveway

How a Tampa-area stranger named “Andre” was pretending to be the owner of the home, contacting the contractors and cutting off communication when they asked for proof of ownership.

And how – a week after Andre told deputies he made a mistake -- Brochu’s driveway was ripped up and removed while she was at work.

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Through the social media storm, readers wanted to know: who steals a driveway, and why?

One of those readers recognized what happened and called the WFTV assignment desk from his Seattle-area phone number.

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He asked us to identify him only by his first name, Jeff, and his occupation: a general contractor.

Jeff said this type of scheme, known as an overpayment scam, is pervasive in the industry.

“The scam targets contractors,” he explained, “And sometimes inadvertently affects homeowners in the process.”

In an overpayment scheme, a scammer will seek out homes listed for sale on sites like Zillow or Redfin. Typically, they’ll target vacant homes.

The scammer will pretend to be the home’s owner, and ask local contractors to provide an estimate for some exterior work like a roof, driveway or painting.

The scammer and the contractor will agree to a price, and the scammer will mail or otherwise provide a check for more than the agreed upon price.

“Instead of being $20,000, there’ll be $22,000,” Jeff said. “Then, they’ll get a call from the supposed homeowner saying ‘Oh my gosh, there was a mistake.’”

The scammer will ask that the extra money be refunded. Shortly after the contractor sends the cash and occasionally after work begins, the scammer’s original check will bounce from the contractor’s bank account.

Jeff said contractors who fall victim are typically inexperienced and often unlicensed.

He said the situation was unfortunate for everyone, but he took special issue with the fact that whoever tore up Brochu’s driveway didn’t own up to it.

“It would have been a bitter pill for them to swallow, but they needed to stay,” he said. “Try to work with their insurance or something like that.”

After weeks of wondering, Brochu said everything suddenly made sense.

“It’s crazy -- the schemes people come up with to get money out of people,” she said.

Deputies are still investigating the situation. Jeff said the scammer most likely used a burner phone and email account.

As for the contractor who did the digging, few solid leads have emerged.

When deputies called the scammer and asked him for the contractor’s phone number, he helpfully provided one – that belonged to the Orlando International Airport.

Brochu, meanwhile, is sleeping a little easier. The morning after her story was published, a Cox Media Group radio sponsor reached out and offered to install a new driveway for free.

Permits are still being filed, but if things work out, Brochu said she plans to donate money collected in her GoFundMe to a local nonprofit in conjunction with 9 Family Connection.

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