Clean-up work and repairs are still underway in Lake City after Sunday night’s tornado, while residents there and across Iowa are being warned when storms strike, scammers will be close behind.
Jim Hegarty, with the regional office of the Better Business Bureau, says Iowans always need to be on-guard for a potential rip-off, especially after severe weather.
Hegarty says, “Whether it’s roofing issues, high winds, trees down, damage to your windows or to your siding, you can just sort of expect it won’t be long before there will be folks canvassing your area, knocking on your door, trying to get your business.” Con artists will often try to make themselves appear legitimate by making it sound like they’re local. A best defense, Hegarty says, is to ask lots of questions.
“You need to get everything in writing and don’t make any decisions on the spot,” Hegarty says. “The big one is don’t pay any money up front until you’re absolutely certain you’re dealing with a well-established firm that has a solid reputation in the market, and even then, we wouldn’t recommend making any large payments up front.”
Check references carefully and never sign over your insurance settlement check, he says, and ask for written contracts that give an estimate and a time frame as to when the work will start and finish. You can’t be too careful, he says, and watch out for those offering a one day deal or a discount if you pay up front that day.
“Reputable contractors often won’t ask for anything up front, but at the most, it would be just to cover whatever expenses they might be incurring for the materials they need to buy,” Hegarty says. “Get everything detailed. You want it in a contract. You want to be sure they’re insured and that they’re bonded.” Many scammers are fast talkers who use high-pressure tactics to get you to hand over money. He says many times they do poor work or no work at all and disappear without a trace.
Before hiring anyone to do a home or property repair, call the Better Business Bureau for a reference check.