It's becoming all too common, a natural disaster strikes, homes need thousands of dollars worth of repairs and scammers, posing as legit contractors, move in to prey on victims says Phae Howard, Director of the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud, a non profit organization.
"Homeowners are in such a rush to get back to normal, what we say is take your time because that makes you much more vulnerable," said Howard. In some cases, Howard explained, homeowners paid for half of a project up front with the understanding their house would be finished first, and never heard from the contractor again.
When and if that happens, there is little that can be done to get your money back, Howard said. If possible, pay with a credit card, so there is a well-established money trail said Howard.
If paying with cash is your only option, get a detailed invoice she recomended, "Have the contractor sign off on it and have the name of that construction company on that invoice."
State Farm Insurance spokesman Jim Camoriano explained a legitimate contractor should be willing to sign a detailed estimate before work begins. "If you walk through the house and everything is just verbal then they can come back andsay well I never said that," Camoriano said. "So it's good to have a written estimate, a detailed estimate." He added it is also wise to arrange to pay the contractor as work is completed.
Beware of someone who offers to pay your insurance deductible or offers to complete insurance paperwork for you Howard says, "Those are red flags for fraud and people really need to be careful with that information."
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