ANDY'S CONSUMER TIP OF THE DAY: avoiding hurricane scams
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC/WXIX) - The stress and sorrow of storm damage make us vulnerable to unlicensed contractors and storm-chasing scammers.
The Federal Trade Commission offered these guidelines to keep you from being the carrion of those vultures:
- Check with your state's consumer protection division, contractors board or attorney general's office to find out whether tree and debris removal contractors need to be licensed in your area. You should also check with your city or county's building code enforcement or permit agency. If state or local officials do require a license, check out the license for the contractor you’re considering. Never sign any document or pay any contractor before verifying his or her license.
- Ask contractors for references and, if possible, call previous clients. Talk with your neighbors about what they’re paying for similar work.
- Write down the contractor’s driver’s license and vehicle information (make, model, and license plate number) in case you need to report the contractor to authorities.
- Ask a contractor to give you their license and certificate of insurance once they are on your property. If a contractor tells you certain work is covered by your insurance, call your insurance company to confirm.
- Get a written estimate and sign a written contract. Make sure it includes a description of the work, the materials included, when the work will be finished, the price, and the address and phone number of the contractor. Read all contracts and make sure all the blanks are filled in before you sign.
- Pay with a credit card or check so you can dispute charge or cancel the payment if there are problems later. Be wary of contractors who ask you to pay them in cash – even for a deposit. Negotiate a reasonable down payment, and only pay in full when the work is done to your satisfaction.
- Trust your gut. If you have any doubts about hiring someone, take your business elsewhere.
- If you have second thoughts about the contractor you hired, you have the right to cancel a contract within three days if you signed it in your home or at a seller’s temporary location, like a hotel room, convention center, or restaurant.
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