DAYTON, OHIO, September 17, 2008 - Hurricane Ike blew threw the Miami Valley on Sunday leaving many with power outages, trees down and damaged homes. Now as people are struggling to return to normal, there are some unethical contractors targeting frustrated homeowners’ needs. Con artists are even targeting those that want to help those in need with their generosity. Your Better Business Bureau offers advice to help you protect yourself from these con artists.
One of the most important things is to not respond to solicitations for help emotionally. You may be eager to get back to normal, but hiring the first company to knock on your door offering its services or asking for a donation could leave you disappointed with the results. Start your search for contractors or organizations supporting those needing help by contacting your Better Business Bureau. If you have Internet access, visit www.bbb.org or call (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.
Many have already turned to your BBB for help. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, your BBB provided more than 700 lists of Accredited Tree Services and Roofing Contractors. It also provided over 1,300 reliability reports on companies in these industries.
John North, BBB President and CEO, says, "Your BBB is here for you during the aftermath of this weekend’s storm. We can help you wade through the contractors wanting your business and organizations asking for your donations. Don’t be swayed by high pressure tactics. Count on our Accredited Businesses. They abide by our Standards for Trust and strive to do business the right way."
It’s important even now to shop around for contractors, which may mean you’ll need to make temporary repairs until permanent ones can be made. Get three estimates based on the same specifications. If there are differences in the estimates, ask contractors to explain why. You should also get and check references.
If you’re looking for a tree service, you may want to be sure the company owns equipment needed to remove the stump if necessary. Many companies rent this equipment only when they have multiple stumps to remove. One of the most common complaints your BBB receives about tree services is companies often don’t return to remove stumps and some don’t even return phone calls from people trying to find out when jobs will be finished.
Once you select a company to hire, get an agreement in writing, which details the work to be done, materials to be used and a price breakdown for labor and materials. Review it carefully before signing and be sure all the blanks are completed. Keep a copy for your records. You also shouldn’t pay for the job entirely upfront or in cash. Pay by check payable to the company, not the individual doing the job.
If you want to make a donation to an organization supporting victims of Ike locally or in Texas, ask for written information on the charity. Even new organizations should have basic information. You should also be wary of emotional appeals, ask how much of your donation will be used to address the problems associated with Ike and determine what organizations will do with excess contributions remaining after needs are addressed. If organizations are reluctant to answer questions, you may want to think twice about donating. Don’t feel pressured to donate immediately because the problems caused by the hurricane will be around longer than the headlines. And, just like paying contractors, you should donate to these organizations by check made out to the organization. Don’t give your credit card number or other personal information over the phone or in response to an e-mail.
If you do experience a problem with a company, your BBB can help too. You can contact your BBB to file complaints against unscrupulous companies at www.bbb.org or (937) 222-5825 or (800) 776-5301.
You can learn more about disaster safety at the American National Red Cross Web site (www.redcross.org) and the Federal Emergency Management Web site (www.fema.gov).
Your BBB is an unbiased nonprofit 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. Your BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, your 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, 125 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than three million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about your BBB.