Rebuilding from Irma and Harvey Disaster
The outpouring of donations, prayers and human support for those affected by Hurricanes’ Irma and Harvey disasters remind us of the good in humanity. However, there will always be opportunists and scammers that crawl out of the woodwork with one purpose in mind: to present themselves as helpful businesses when in fact they are con-men motivated by nothing more than to steal your money.
According to a recent Consumer Reports Article, here are some important warning signs that you’re dealing with a scammer:
- Unsolicited visits to your property to sell you their services.
- Scammers will impersonate as government officials to get your confidential information.
- Contractors who’s credentials can’t be verified.
- Promises of Heavy Discounts.
- High-pressure sales tactics.
For those in Florida:
Always verify their contractors license. Florida is one of the strictest states that proactively prosecute people performing contracting activities without a license. You can easily verify their credentials at www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr. You can also report unlicensed activity on that link.
For those in Texas:
Unfortunately there are little restrictions for licensed contractors, so you must do some additional checking. Make sure they have a real address, Google their name and check their references.
But whatever you do, NEVER give them a lot of money up front to start the job. It’s easy for them to quote a job asking for $10,000 up front to buy materials. Way too often they pocket that money and you will never hear from them again. It doesn’t hurt to get a picture of their drivers’ license also.
The Payment “Up-Front” Scam:
You can protect yourself from the “Up-front” scam 2 ways after you negotiate a minimal up-front fee:
- Buy the materials yourself
- Use a credit card
The Hard-Sell contractor will threaten to get other jobs because there is plenty of work for him out there, bullying you into giving cash or initiating a wire transfer. Understand you have no recourse should they not perform. I’ve found it’s pretty easy to educate a contractor on how to accept credit card payments. Square, Stripe and PayPal are just a few of the low-cost options available for contractors. Even if they don’t like paying the extra charge, it’s worth it to you to pay it for them. You will be protected should they not perform as stated, even if you have a solid contract. Your credit card company is your first line of protection.
Buying the materials yourself is easy even if you don’t know what to buy. I’ve often had cashiers from the big box stores call me as the contractor checks out of the store and I give them my credit card number over the phone. It’s a slight inconvenience for the contractor, but it assures you that you are in control of the spending.
Please share this information with anyone you know that needs some construction help. You could save them from a lot of turmoil.