December 5, 2012
How to Avoid Contractor Scams After Hurricane Sandy
by Larry Dolin
The vast majority of contractors – security companies, plumbers, electricians, and roofers – are ethical and are committed to helping those in need in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. However, the urgency of the situation, coupled by the desperation of the victims allows for victims to be exploited by unethical contractors – scammers – who are trying to take advantage of the situation. If you are a victim of Hurricane Sandy, don’t become a victim of thieves masquerading as contrators! Here are some tips to help you avoid hiring scam contractors.
Stop Scam – Top Tips from Expert, Larry Dolin
Larry Dolin, President, American Security Systems has been installing and repairing security systems for decades.
The vast majority of contractors – security companies, plumbers, electricians, and roofers – are ethical and are committed to helping those in need in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. However, the huge demand for urgent repairs creates an environment in which thieves thrive. We have reliable reports that scammers are working throughout the hurricane damage zone, trying to take advantage you and your dire situation. Don’t allow yourself to be outsmarted! Here are some tips to help you avoid hiring scam contractors.
1. Reputable contractors offer written estimates before they start work or ask for payment. Be wary of contractors who offer to do work immediately by using “ballpark estimate” or verbal quote. Protect yourself by making sure the estimate is written and one that is reviewed and signed by you before work commences. Also examine the letterhead and stationery of the contractor, to determine if the document was professionally printed (a good sign) or run off on a home computer printer. Companies that invest the money to make a professional presentation are usually more reliable.
2. Legitimate contractors are certified, insured and/or bonded by the state and/or town you live. Do your homework. Call the appropriate state or local municipality to verify the contractor’s lisence number and information.
3. Use your favorite search engine by typing the name of the company followed by the words, “scam,” “complaint,” or “fraud.” If a contractor is not legimate, there is usually some reference to his methods, made by unsatisfied customers, on the web.
4. After a disaster it is common for unscrupulous contractors to visit victims door-to-door to find business, claiming that they “just happened to be working in your neighborhood.” They may also claim to have leftover supplies from a previous job that they will sell you at a discount. You can easily verify such stories by asking for neighborhood references by name, address and phone number.
5. Cash-only deals are a sure sign of a high risk contractor. Often, the cash deposit is kept and work is never started. Reputable contractors will always begin by asking for check or credit card payments.
6. Never pay for a large deposit or the entire price of a job before work is started. A popular contractor scam is to take a deposit and then disappear. Most legitimate contractors only bill after the work is done and done to your satisfaction.
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