Warmer weather brings out the bugs and scam artists too. Quite frankly, there seems to be little difference between the two especially as both may seek to harm your home.
Typically, scam artists show up in greater numbers following a storm, particularly one that leaves homes and properties damaged. This summer, flooding and wind damage have taken place across the country, with local officials warning consumers to be on the look out for contractors that may actually be scammers.
Here is how you can protect yourself from being scammed:
1. Get the complete information. Simply because someone shows up at your door to solicit your business does not mean that they are qualified to complete the same. Contractors should identify who they are, their address and offer a business phone number. They should also offer to you references and that means taking the time to call these individuals. If you are still not sure where a contractor stands, then contact your local Better Business Bureau or your State Office of the Attorney General to learn if complaints have been filed against this individual.
2. Check identification. Verbal identification is not enough. Contractors should show both their driver’s license and their work license. Consider NOT hiring anyone who does not live and work in your state.
3. Solicit estimates. When an individual comes to your door, obtain an estimate and ask for that information in writing. Then, solicit at least two more estimates to compare prices. Know that the lowest price is not always the best price: go with the individual with stellar references including a reputation for getting the job done on time and for the stated price.
4. Exercise the right of cancellation. In most states, you retain the right to cancel a project within 72 hours and without penalty. If you get cold feet after signing a contract, then notify the contractor immediately.
5. Get it in writing. Never rely on verbal agreements. Instead, insist that the project be writing. If your contractor does not provide a written estimate, eliminate this individual from contention. Never fall for excuses such as “the power was out and I could not type up an estimate.” This person can still write down everything on company letterhead and give you a copy.
6. Hold on to your check. Your insurance company may be quick to issue a check to you to cover your losses. But, don’t sign over your check to the contractor, rather deposit it into your bank. Never pay the contractor in full before the work is done. A small upfront payment of 10 percent to buy materials is acceptable, with the remaining funds paid in increments as the project advances. Make your final payment once the job has been completed and you are satisfied with the work.
If you believe that you have been scammed, notify your local police department. You can also file complaints with the Better Business Bureau and contact your state’s office of the attorney general.