How to avoid Hurricane Irma clean-up scams

September 08, 2017

After Hurricane Irma, both trustworthy and not so trustworthy businesses may come to your door because they’re in your neighborhood – or you might find them online when you’re searching. So here’s how you can protect yourself:

  • To find a business you can trust, search for Accredited Businesses on BBB’s website. We’ve checked their license and criminal history. Plus they’ve pledged in advance to be honest and transparent. And if there is a problem, the Accredited Business must respond to your BBB complaint – unlike non-accredited businesses.
  • If the business approaches you - while the business assesses the damage - look them up on BBB’s website to see if they’re an Accredited Business and what their rating and reviews are like.
  • If they’re not accredited and are required to be licensed, get their license number and check with the licensing board yourself to make sure they have a current license. We just had a recent complaint where the general contractor provided a license number and even sent the consumer a copy of their license certificate. The problem – the license number belonged to someone else so the certificate was fake! When we checked the license number with the NC General Contractor’s Board, we discovered the board had actually caught the contractor working without a license back in 2015. They’re currently investigating this complaint.
  • Check their required liability and workers comp insurance by calling the liability insurance company yourself to verify coverage.
  • Get at least three estimates in writing that include price, details and start and completion dates.
  • Preference is not to put down deposit but if you have to, make it a small one 5 to 10 percent and use your credit card so you can dispute the charge if the job’s not finished. If you pay by check, make check to the business, not an individual. And never pay cash.
  • And never given them their last dollar until the work is completely done. And I mean completely. We get a lot of complaints about businesses that will say, “It’s getting dark. I’ll come back tomorrow to finish.” And then you never see them again.

Repair professionals that need a license:

General contractor for jobs less than $30,000: North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors   919.571.4183

Plumbers: NC State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler Contractors (919) 875-3612

Heating and Air Conditioning: NC State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating & Fire Sprinkler Contractors   (919) 875-3612

Electricians: NC State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors  919.733.9042

Landscape architect: NC Landscape Contractors Registration Board
(919) 266-8070

Landscape contractor: NC Landscape Contractors Registration Board 
(919) 266-8070

Landscape lighting: NC Landscape Contractors Registration Board  (919) 266-8070

Irrigation systems: North Carolina Irrigation Contractors’ Licensing Board 
(919) 872-2229

Repair professionals that DON'T need a license:

Roofers, tree trimming and removal companies, mold remediation, drainage services