After a natural disaster, your home–among other things—may need improvements and repairs. Contractor fraud and home improvement scams have the potential to increase after a natural disaster, taking advantage of the vulnerable state of a homeowner.
Not all home improvement companies provide lousy work during this time, but the companies that do may use high-pressure tactics, charge more than their quoted price, or fail to provide an acceptable level of service.
In addition to less than professional home improvement companies, there may be a threat of individuals posing as contractors. These types of scammers may approach you claiming to have leftover materials from a job and may offer to provide services for a discount if you make full payment in cash and up front.
Avoid leaving yourself susceptible to home improvement scams by following these tips:
Never pay with cash
Avoid making full payment in cash up front, especially if you’re approached. Using a form of payment that is easily trackable—such as a debit or credit card—is helpful in the event you have to file a claim for fraudulent services.
Ask for ID
If someone is posing as a government official, ask for identification. You can take it one step further by contacting the government agency to verify identity. When dealing with contractors, ask for license numbers and get references from neighbors and family members.
Not all contractors are created equal
Avoid contractors who request jobs by going door-to-door, are traveling for work out of state, or refuse to provide contact information and identification.
No contract. No job.
If the contractor can’t provide a clearly written contract, don’t move further in the process.
Don’t make a final payment until you’re satisfied
Make final payment only when they have completed the work, and when you’re happy with the level of service provided.
The aftermath of a natural disaster is stressful enough without adding more tension that may come from the experience of a scam. Following our five tips can help decrease your chances of becoming a victim of a home improvement scam.
Source: MONEY SMART for Older Adults Resource Guide by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
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Information appearing in this article is obtained from sources we believe are reliable. The information may not be a complete statement of all available data and is not guaranteed as such. Marine FCU is not responsible for the contents of this article and advises its membership to investigate claims before following the information provided.