Elderly Homeowners Scammed on Hilton Head - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/04/04

Elderly Homeowners Scammed on Hilton Head

Ever tried to get someone to do work on your house? It can be a real nightmare, and it just got worse for some folks. It's the second time this week we've heard about someone scamming the elderly in Beaufort County. This time in a retirement community.

Investigators say James Byles with Florida Glass and Screen has scammed at least six people in Sun City out of thousands of dollars over the past few weeks.

All resident Harold Garnes wanted is a screened in porch, where he and his wife could sit and enjoy the view at their home. But what he got was scammed.

"He was doing work in the area, in fact right up the street from us, and he stopped by and passed out his card," Garnes said.

So after checking out some of his work, Garnes hired Byles to do the work. for half the price of other area contractors. But Byles said he needed half the money up front to get the project going.

"He said, 'If you get the permit on Thursday morning, give me a call and I'll start the work, because I'll already have the materials there,'" recalled Garnes. "And I wrote him a check for $1,950."

Byles cashed the check the next day, never to be heard from again.

"He never showed up, so I called him for a week," said Garnes. "Every day I called him, leaving messages."

After Garnes discovered the phone number had been disconnected, he went searching for the company and it ends up the company and the business address were both bogus.

It's a scam Beaufort County investigators say has happened to at least six other homeowners in the area. "He represents himself as a contractor with a porch and glass company," said Investigator Eric Claendine with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office. "He basically writes out a contract and usually accepts half the money. In the civil cases, he pours concrete and never comes back."

Investigators are asking if you have been scammed by James Byles of Florida Glass and Screen, report it to the sheriff's office at 843.470.3200. Although Charges are pending in Garnes' case, the other cases are civil because Byles started the work.

Investigators say the first thing you need to do to protect yourself is check out contractors. Make sure they have a valid business license and check out some of their work and their references.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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