Avoiding Home Contractor Scams
Being prepared for a hurricane, forest fire, earthquake, flood, tornado, or other natural disaster may involve such diverse things as stocking up on canned goods and bottled water, protecting yourself with home owners insurance, and doing “tree maintenance” in your backyard.
But what about after the disaster? How do you recognize an opportunist and avoid falling for his trap?
First, watch out for the following signs of a possible scam artist:
- A contractor suddenly shows up on your doorstep in the aftermath of a disaster or you see his posters on telephone poles and other locations all over town.
- You notice a contractor has out of state license plates and you can’t seem to pin him down on a physical address.
- The alleged contractor is reluctant to show an ID card and can’t verify he carries the requisite insurance and has an in-state contractor’s license.
- There is a refusal to put anything in writing.
- A super-low price is offered, but you are expected to pay a good deal of cash upfront.
- There is a high-pressure sales approach. You are expected to decide right away to hire the contractor for the job or not.
But besides knowing what to avoid, on the positive side, you should know what to do to get your home repaired. Here are some good suggestions:
- Try to hire local. Local contractors may already be known and trusted by you, and you can easily check on their address, licensing, insurance, and even business references.
- Always get at least two estimates before deciding on who to hire.
- Never pay in cash, especially not upfront. And only pay in full when the job is satisfactorily completed.
- Rely on your homeowners insurance provider to help you find a reputable, affordable company ready to do the job.
Other Post-disaster Scams to Watch Out For
Scams following a natural disaster or major storm are not limited to home repair ruses. A second major area of operation for scammers is charitable donations. Stick with charities you already know and trust, avoiding giving cash, and don’t give out your personal information along with the donation. Also look out for price gouging on things like food, water, gasoline, ice, generators, plywood, and all manner of basic supplies people need after an area-wide disaster.
Even months after a disaster, be wary of used cars for sale in the area. Many times, vehicles damaged in a disaster are fraudulently resold as if they had suffered no damage at all.
If you notice any kind of scam related to a natural disaster, don’t hesitate to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling 877-623-3423 to report it.
Be prepared before a natural disaster strikes by stocking up on disaster supplies, having a plan of action, knowing how to avoid scammers, and by protecting your investment in your home with homeowners insurance. To learn more or for a free quote, in Flagler County, FL, contact Flagler County Insurance Agency today.