Business and Economics

Storm Opportunists Could Cause More Disaster

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November 22, 2013 — Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is warning Hoosiers today about scam artists and bogus contractors in the wake of this week’s violent storms.

Zoeller says that fly-by-night contractors “prey on homeowners who are desperate to repair damage quickly.”

The Attorney General’s office reminds Hoosiers to get a written comprehensive contract before any work is done or any money changes hands, don’t make out insurance checks to contractors, do not pay more than one-third the cost of the project as a down payment, don’t make a final payment until all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid, and keep written records of everything.

Hoosiers who believe they been a victim of a scam can file a complaint at 1-800-382-5516 or www.indianaconsumer.com.

Michigan City’s Police Department is also advising people to watch for potential scammers.

It notes that after many communities in Indiana suffered losses due to Sunday’s tornado outbreak, disasters or damages like this have brought out scam artists trying to take advantage.

It advises people to beware of unsolicited offers of disaster help from visitors offering assistance in filing insurance claims for home damages, perhaps offering a “waived” deductable or discounted pricing in an attempt to file insurance claims from storm damage.

It suggests tips to avoid being scammed when hiring a contractor:

  • Be suspicious of anyone who offers to increase the amount of your disaster damage assessment.
  • Research. You may also check with the local Better Business Bureau, homebuilders’ association or trade council to see if the contracting firm has unanswered complaints against it.
  • Check references. Contractors should be willing to provide names of previous customers. Call several former customers who had similar work done to make sure they were satisfied with the job.
  • Ask for proof of insurance. If a contractor is uninsured, you may be liable for accidents on your property. Make sure the contractor has disability and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Ask for a written estimate and check to make sure it includes all the work you expect to have done, as well as taxes, permits, and other fees. Keep in mind that some contractors charge for an estimate.
  • Get a written contract. Make certain it includes the price, payment schedule, detailed description of the work and timeline for its completion.
  • Never pay for the entire project before the work begins.
  • You also must have a permit for repairs from the City (of Michigan City) who also keeps a record of all licensed and insured contractors.
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