A group of homeowners is warning anyone looking to renovate to watch out for fraudulent contractors using the pandemic as an opportunity to cheat people out of their money.

Several victims of the same contractor are sharing their stories in the hope others might avoid their mistakes. One of those victims is a lawyer who agreed to donate her legal time to fight for the group.

"We’re all spending a lot more time at home during the pandemic and many of us need renovations to accommodate that," said Cyndy Morin of Resolve Legal Group.

"That’s making contractors harder to find and what we may not realize is there are unscrupulous operators waiting to take advantage of our vulnerability."

Morin felt fortunate to find a contractor, through word of mouth in the midst of the pandemic, with glowing reviews. 

The two met and, according to Morin, the worker requested a $2,737 deposit with another $2,737 due at the start of the project. 

Morin paid the deposit but became suspicious when the contractor kept putting her off.  She searched the name online and found several other victims, including a police officer who shared similar stories of losing deposits to the contractor who either did partial work or no work at all.

Alberta law prohibits contractors from taking deposits unless they are licensed and bonded, Morin warns.

"Don’t be afraid of looking silly by demanding that your contractor be bonded and asking to see his or her license. Yes, they must be licensed to get a deposit."

If a contractor requests a deposit without a license, you can report them to the Service Alberta Consumer Investigations Unit which may help protect others.

The group of homeowners met with both the Calgary Police Service and Cochrane RCMP and is hoping charges will be laid.