Protect yourself from severe winter weather scammers
TYLER – If you are overwhelmed and/or anxious as a results of last week’s severe winter weather, you’re not alone. The winter storm affected all 254 Texas counties, and some are predicting a record number of insurance claims will be filed in the state.
While natural disasters often bring out the best in people, as neighbors and even strangers help meet the needs of others, they also bring out scam artists and disreputable businesses. Better Business Bureau advises residents who suffered damage as a result of last week’s storm to be on the lookout for scammers intending to advantage of those who need assistance,
“It was heartwarming to see reports of individuals driving medical personnel to work, pick up groceries and assist those in need in a variety of ways,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Unfortunately, we’ve also received reports of individuals preying on those affected.”
BBB provides the following tips for those who suffered damage as a result of last week’s severe winter weather:
Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.
Do your research. Find contractors you can trust on BBB.org. You can even use BBB’s free Request a Quote program to receive bids from up to three BBB Accredited Businesses.
Avoid high pressure sales. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be proactive in selecting a business and not reactive to sales solicitations.
Verify those who come to your door. BBB has received reports of individuals posing as utility company employees requesting personally identifiable information. Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business or signage on their vehicle. Before providing any information or payment to any individual, confirm they are who they say they are and ensure they are reputable.
Be wary regarding places you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof, attic, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
Get it in writing. Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name address, license number, if applicable, and phone number is included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, and never sign a blank contract.
Never pay for work in full in advance. Never pay more than half before the contractor begins repairs. A good rule of thumb is to pay one third before, one third when 50% of the work is completed and the remaining balance once you are satisfied.
Hire locally whenever possible. Chances are, if the company is not from the area, they are less likely to come back and make a repair should you find something they missed.
Victims of severe storm damage should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start with companies you can trust by going to bbb.org.
BBB serving Central East Texas fosters a trustworthy marketplace by maintaining standards for truthful advertising and by investigating and exposing fraud against consumers and businesses. Please go to bbb.org or call 903-581-5704 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, go to BBB Scam Tracker.
About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust.
Visit bbb.org for more information. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.
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