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Tornado Scams: Contractor Scammers Target Homeowners

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Attention Homeowners:

It may feel urgent to begin rebuilding and repairing your home from the recent tornado damage as quickly as possible, but before signing any sort of contract, you'll want to be sure to follow these steps to avoid complications or being scammed. 

1. Get to know the contractor
Ask for ID, including name, address and phone number from the representative of any contractor agreeing to do work for you. Consult the Attorney General's Office or Better Business Bureau to ensure they are legitimate. 

2. Get written estimates
Refuse to do business with any contractor that will not provide a written estimate. 

3. Read the contract
Does it include a statement that your written approval is required for any changes to the original contract? Does it reflect the total cost and details of what you originally agreed upon? Does it include payment information, such as a required deposit before the work begins? Is it dated and signed by the contractor? Be sure you have the answers to these questions before signing your name. ALWAYS insist on a copy of every document you sign. 

4. A contract should include

  • A start date of when the work will begin
  • A completion date
  • The type of materials to be used
  • Total cost of everything including materials and labor
  • Whether subcontractors will be used
  • Any guarantees or warranties you may receive
  • Whether the contractor has the necessary licenses and permits. 

5. Be Cautious 
Any contractor that is not willing to provide proper ID, doesn't have a permanent place of business or insists on payments before work begins should be red flags. Before you pay any bill, be sure the contractor provide you with a sworn statement that all materials have been paid for to make sure you are protected from liens that may be placed on your property. 

Scam Alert

These are examples of scams you might encounter.

Fly-by-night contractors
They often arrive from out of town or out of state as soon as a disaster occurs. They promise immediate and/or cheap home repair, cleanup or remodeling. They often take your money without doing any or all of the work. If they do work, it’s shoddy, and they might add additional costs while the job is in progress. They often demand a large cash deposit before beginning the work and then never return.

Charity scams
Supposed charities may be soliciting for donations to help disaster victims. They may even use legitimate charity names, such as the Red Cross. But the money is never provided to those who are in need of the assistance. To avoid this scam, give directly to your local charity organizations if you want to donate.

Price gouging
Unscrupulous businesses may charge extremely high and unjustified prices for products or services that disaster victims need to purchase or rent, such as roofing materials, plywood, tarps, food staples, charcoal, electrical generators, etc.

Job opportunity scams
Beware of advertisements for jobs, such as tornado cleanup or other such labor, that require an advance fee to obtain the job. Often, the money is paid in advance, but no job exists.

Advance-fee loan scams and mortgage scams
Unless you are dealing directly with a bank or other exempt financial institution, you should not be required to pay a fee in order to obtain a loan or credit. Be aware of excessively high interest rates, second mortgage loans or equity loans in which you use your home as collateral.

Water treatment and water testing
Request water assistance from your local health department or environmental protection officials, not questionable water treatment companies. They often use scare tactics to persuade you to purchase their products.

Con artists pretending to be officials
Question anyone claiming to be a government representative or official. Request to see photo identification from anyone who wants access to your home. Con artists may offer help in obtaining disaster relief payments from the government, or act as safety or building inspectors advising you that work should be done immediately.

If you need further assistance, contact Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Consumer Protection Section, 800-282-0515.

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