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BBB warns of post-storm contractor scams

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Western Virginia is advising consumers affected by recent powerful storms to be on the lookout for storm chasers and out-of-town contractors soliciting homeowners and businesses.

“Too often we see itinerant workers swarm into Western Virginia after major storm damage,” said Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western Va. “It is not uncommon for these storm chasers to be unlicensed and full of big promises they can’t deliver. They are often long gone to another state by the time the consumer realizes the job is half-done or done incorrectly.”

In some instances, the BBB has seen out-of-state contractors setting up shop in the area trying to capture construction work caused by the storms. The BBB is advising local, established contractors to avoid storm chasers who may offer to pay substantial amounts of money to use their local established name, reputation and contact information. After masquerading as a local business, storm chasers can leave these companies with unsatisfied consumers and unrealistic and unfulfilled warranties.

Another common scheme involves insurance fraud, where the itinerant worker offers to deal with the consumer’s insurance company directly and suggests the homeowner not pay their deductible. Under no circumstances can a homeowner avoid paying their deductible. Any contractor that suggests otherwise to a homeowner is committing insurance fraud.

The BBB has received multiple reports since July of 2012 of contractors offering to cover deductibles and then charging higher costs to cover this expense. Consumers are encouraged to always deal with their insurance company directly and not allow a third-party to engage in negotiations for insurance coverage and settlements.

Some BBB tips:

· Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and business reviews you can trust on local companies, visit www.bbb.org.

· Check to see that your contractor is properly licensed and is registered by your state or local agency.

· Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go do-to-door. Verify that they have to have a permit by contacting your local Township or Municipality. BBB suggests consumers be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches.

· While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work. If a roofing contractor goes up onto your roof without your permission, call the police department.

· Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors, and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.

· Do not pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront.

· Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.

· Get a written contract that specifies the price, the work to be done, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Require a copy of their current certificate of insurance.

· Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.

· Check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and has your state’s license plates.

If you need more information, contact the BBB at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501. You can also visit www.bbb.org.

 

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