Watch out for Rip-off Repairmen Offering Help When You Need it Most – AARP Offers Tips to Avoid Common Contractor Scams
In the aftermath of Sandy, along with repairs and clean up, comes rip-off repairmen, looking to cause a disaster of their own…on your finances. The scam artists are often called “storm chasers,” as they descend almost immediately upon areas hit hard by natural disasters. Today, AARP New York is warning consumers of the all-too-common contractor scams and is releasing some quick tips to help people avoid becoming the next victim.
First, check with your insurance company to see what your policy covers. Save all receipts, including those for food, hotel or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Then, consider these tips before hiring a contractor in the days and weeks ahead:
- Before doing any major repair, get at least three estimates.
- Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured to do business in your area.
- Never hire a contractor on the spot. Check out repair companies by looking for consumer reviews on the BBB website and on social media sites such as Yelp or Angie’s list.
- Avoid the paperless contractor. Reject anyone who has no business card or company fliers (or who lists a P.O. box instead of a street address).
- Get a written contract, specifying what work will be done, the materials that will be used and the price breakdown for labor and materials. Any promises made verbally should be written into the contract, including warranties.
- Never pay in advance — or in cash. While some companies may ask for a deposit, consumer advocates suggest paying no more than one-third of the job in advance.
- Deposits or upfront fees should not exceed 25 percent of the estimate. Pay them only after materials reach your home and work begins.