How To Avoid Becoming the Victim of a Contractor Scam
A storm’s aftermath is devastating enough. The last thing anyone needs is a fraudulent contractor to “fix” the damage. But unfortunately, “storm chasers” often follow weather events, looking for people to defraud. First, they knock on doors, offering their services (possibly at staggeringly low rates). Then, they collect their money and leave without finishing a job—or doing it at all. Here’s how to avoid becoming a contractor scam victim.
Don’t fall for a “free” inspection.
Be wary if a contractor approaches you and offers a free storm damage inspection. Some legitimate vendors conduct free inspections, but a contractor scam will also use them to inflate a home’s problems or find some that don’t exist. Instead, call your insurance company to file a claim, and schedule an inspection by a licensed adjuster.
Note: You MUST have an adjuster inspect any damage before starting repair work. If you don’t, your insurance carrier could deny your claim.
Get multiple estimates.
Treat hiring a contractor like finding an insurance policy—shop around. It’s best to get estimates from multiple contractors so you can get a good idea of what the repairs should cost before finding a reputable vendor.
Ask to see a license and get referrals.
Only hire licensed and insured contractors and ask to see credentials. Then, contact references about the quality and efficiency of a specific vendor’s work.
Get it all in writing.
Ask for a detailed account of the work to be completed, cost, schedule, guarantees, and payment.
Never sign a contract that contains blanks.
Someone operating a contractor scam could insert new terms into those blanks after you’ve already signed the document.
Don’t pay upfront.
Many contractors will ask for a down payment. Yet, a fraudulent one will demand a large percentage of payment upfront and pressure you to give it quickly. Only pay when a job is completed, and never pay cash.