The damage caused by natural disasters often brings out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out persons who take advantage of those who have already been victimized. Some of the most common "after-disaster" scams involve clean-up efforts and repairs to homes, heating and cooling equipment, and flood-damaged cars. The Better Business Bureau has the following advice for consumers:
- Be wary of door-to-door workers who show up unsolicited offering to make repairs. This includes companies offering to remove fallen trees. Itinerant scam artists from other parts of the country flock to disaster-stricken areas.
- Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Keep copies of receipts for emergency repairs for reimbursement later.
- Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid acting in haste. Don't be pressured into signing a long-term contract. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
- Take time to shop around for contractors, get competitive bids, and check out the contractor with the BBB. The BBB can provide you a list of BBB Accredited Businesses to choose from, including roofers, tree removal companies, and other home repair companies.
- Prepare a written agreement with anyone you hire. It should delineate the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Review it carefully before signing. Vague clauses such as “repair siding” are invitations for abuse.
- Never pay the full amount of repairs in advance – 30% is a standard down payment. Pay with a credit card if possible.
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BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about BBB.