Consumer vs Crook: Avoiding repair scams after a natural disaster

Avoiding repair scams after a natural disaster
Updated: Jul. 22, 2018 at 10:20 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Many are spending the weekend cleaning up after Friday's tornadoes and severe storms.

When weather like this strikes, so do scam artists. Both trustworthy and not so trustworthy businesses may come to your door because they're in your neighborhood – or you might find them online when you're searching for help with clean-up and repair efforts.

Rip-off artists know that opportunities await. Many local contractors often are overwhelmed by demand. Within days of a disaster, out-of-state contractors and those who just call themselves contractors will begin showing up, tacking up signs in public places and on trees, advertising their services and their cell phone numbers, or even going door-to-door.

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Typically, they'll offer to do the work for a certain price, then ask for a portion of the cost up front in cash. With money in hand, they'll say they need to get tools or supplies, then disappear forever.

Here are some tips to make sure you aren't a victim of a scam:

  • Get the proposal in writing.
  • Resist any attempt to force you to make a decision on the spot.
  • Don't pay in cash.
  • Get at least three estimates in writing that include price, details and start and completion dates.
  • Never give a business their last dollar until the work is completely done.
  • Go local. They're likely to have a business address you can check and they're more likely to provide follow-up and respond to your questions. After all, they have a reputation within the community to uphold.
  • Make sure a contractor is in compliance with local and state regulations such as having liability and worker's compensation insurance. Ask for references and the names of the contractor's suppliers.

Check the Better Business Bureau's website for ratings and reviews of businesses.

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