In the aftermath of Sandy, AARP Connecticut is warning the public about common contractor scams and offering tips to help safeguard against unscrupulous scam artists looking to take advantage of vulnerable citizens.
“Unfortunately, with disaster, often comes ‘storm chasers’ — scam artists and rip-off repairmen looking to cause a disaster of their own…on your finances,” AARP Connecticut State Director, Nora Duncan, said. “Follow these tips to avoid becoming the next victim.”
First, check with your insurance company to see what your policy covers. Save all receipts, including those for food, hotel or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Then, consider these tips before hiring a contractor in the days and weeks ahead:
- Before doing any major repair, get at least three estimates.
- Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured to do business in your area.
- Never hire a contractor on the spot. Check out repair companies by looking for consumer reviews on the BBB website <http://blog.aarp.org/2012/10/29/as-hurricane-sandy-batters-the-east-experts-warn-homeowners-to-stay-alert-to-repair-scams-afterward/print/bbb.org> and on social media sites such as Yelp or Angie’s list.
- Avoid the paperless contractor. Reject anyone who has no business card or company fliers (or who lists a P.O. Box instead of a street address).
- Get a written contract, specifying what work will be done, the materials that will be used and the price breakdown for labor and materials. Any promises made verbally should be written into the contract, including warranties.
- Never pay in advance — or in cash. While some companies may ask for a deposit, consumer advocates suggest paying no more than one-third of the job in advance.
- Deposits or upfront fees should not exceed 25 percent of the estimate. Pay them only after materials reach your home and work begins.
The AARP Foundation has established a relief fund to support victims in the U.S. devastated by Superstorm Sandy. AARP and its members are committed to helping those in need, so to bolster the Foundation's relief effort, AARP and its affiliates are matching dollar-for-dollar contributions up to $500,000. 100% of all funds raised will be used to help the victims of this disaster. To donate to the AARP Foundation Disaster Relief Fund, please go to www.aarp.org/disasterrelief.
AARP Connecticut is working with local organizations to support relief efforts and provide information and resources to its members and the public. For additional information, please visit AARP.org.