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Protect yourself from contractor scams

After a big storm or other disaster, a criminal element may be drawn to the area. Fraud can range from shoddy repairs to price gouging to people who take the money and run. Here are FOUR steps for homeowners to take that will ensure you stay safe during a stressful time.

1. Get Written Estimates

These should be on the company’s letterhead with clear contact information. Keep a copy of all copies of agreements and warranty terms.

2. Check Out Companies

Beware of a contractor who only has out-of-town references or who solicits door to door. Make sure to check references, phone numbers, and addresses, if possible. Conduct web searches. Check for complaints with the local Better Business Bureau.

3. Don’t Pay Up Front

Good contractors may require a partial payment up front to get started. Don’t make your final payment until the job is finished and you receive any necessary permits. If a disaster is declared, contractors from outside your area can’t ask for payment before they start work.

4. Beware of Offers to Waive the Deductible

The deductible is part of your insurance agreement. It is illegal for contractors to offer to waive a deductible or promise a rebate for all or part of a deductible. If a contractor offers to “work the deductible into the bid,” they are committing fraud.

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