All too often following a natural disaster, opportunists and scam artists descend on a community looking to take advantage of those in distress. Many times, persons posing as contractors show up on one’s doorstep offering promises of quick fixes and bargain prices. These should serve as red flags to those seeking assistance.
- Always get the proposal in writing. Don’t fall for the first offer that comes along. If a contractor won’t put it in writing, you’re dealing with the wrong person.
- Be wary of contractors wanting to avoid contact with local building inspectors or insurance adjusters.
- Be sure of what your insurance will or won’t cover before signing any contracts.
- Never pay more than one-third of the cost of a job up-front.
- Resist any attempt to force you to make a decision on the spot.
- Don’t pay in cash. The demand for cash is typical of a fly-by-night opportunist. And it should serve as a warning sign to any homeowner. If you have a contractor asking for cash, you really need to close the door and do not do business with them.
- If possible, select a local contractor. Federal authorities, who frequently issue warnings following disasters, suggest looking to local businesses first. Why? 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. Also, make sure they are in compliance with local and state regulations for contractors, such as having liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Ask for references and the names of the contractor’s suppliers.
- A popular scam is to ask for charitable donations to disaster-related causes, such as shelters and food for those forced from their homes. The Faribault Police Department wants to warn residents that they should only donate to charities you know and trust.
- Don’t give out personal or financial information when solicited for donations.
If you’re the victim of a disaster-related fraud, you may contact the Faribault Police Department at (507) 334-4305. The federal government also has a special task force set up to investigate. Their contact information is the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 877-623-3423 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.