BBB Warns of Winter Storm Chasers

February 19, 2013
Marlborough, MA - February 7, 2013 - Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be wary of fly-by-night “storm chasers” and fraudulent relief charities that will be out in full force due to the approaching snow storm.

As soon as the snow clears and roads are plowed, storm-chasing scammers will be peddling phony deals that may cost homeowners thousands of dollars more than usual. BBB recommends doing your research to avoid getting taken advantage of by untrustworthy home contractors and unscrupulous charities.

“Not only do New England residents need to be concerned about keeping their homes and families safe during the storm, they need to be aware of fraudulent charities, contractors, and snow plowing businesses,” said Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for the local BBB.

When looking for a contractor you can trust and seeking to aid relief efforts, BBB recommends that homeowners and donors do the following:

Start Your Search with BBB. In addition to offering thousands of Business Reviews on home contractors, BBB offers consumers the opportunity to research reputable charities through the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. BBB urges donors to make sure their donations will go to legitimate charities and organizations that have the capability to help those in need.

Recognize the Red Flags. Beware of any contractor who uses high-pressure sales tactics or requires full payment upfront. Avoid contractors who claim to have left-over materials from a nearby job or who do not have a permanent place of business. When looking to make a donation, be cautious about giving online, especially in response to unsolicited emails or spam messages.

Check Out the Contractor Carefully. Verify the business meets all state and local requirements including being licensed, insured and bonded. Request proof of insurance covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability. Ask the business or contractor for references from recent jobs.

Beware of Storm Chasers. In the aftermath of a storm, fly-by-night home contractors and businesses will solicit work, often door-to-door in unmarked vehicles. They may require advance payment and make big promises they won’t be able to deliver. Beware of low-ball estimates that may accumulate over time or foreshadow shoddy work to come.

Get it in Writing. Require a written contract with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Any promises, warranties or guarantees should be written into the contract. Be sure their name, address, license number and phone number along with a start and end date for the work is included. Read and understand the contract in its entirety.

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