BBB Cautions Flood Victims of Scams

  
     
With the recent flooding of surrounding areas Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Oklahoma warns affected homeowners to be cautious of scammers offering discounted flood repair services.
May 27, 2015

Scammers travel to disaster areas to take advantage of those who want life to go back to “normal.” Some may claim your insurance agent or FEMA sent them to your home or business. Be cautious of anyone who knocks at your door claiming to be government workers with FEMA and that you are eligible for disaster grants or money. There is not a fee to apply for FEMA disaster assistance. Government workers will never ask for a fee or payment, and they wear an official government photo ID.

Before hiring a flood restoration specialist, do the following to avoid falling victim to a scam: 

  • Talk to your insurance agent (or FEMA) to find out about specific coverage and filing requirements. Victims should save all receipts, including those for food and temporary lodging.
  • Research for details and free information on contractors you can trust at www.bbb.org and consider using the BBB’s FREE online service eQuote to obtain estimates, proposals or general information from BBB Accredited contractors.
  • Get at least three different written estimates for repair work.
  • Don’t automatically pick the lowest bid.
  • Base all bids on the same criteria.
  • Require the company to give you all guarantees in writing and a contract before the work begins. The contract should detail all of the work to be completed, the costs, a pay schedule, a projected completion date, and how to negotiate changes and settle disputes. Make sure the contract states who will obtain the proper permits.
  • Ask the contractor for proof of general liability insurance and call the insurance company listed on the documents provided to make sure the contractor has an active policy.
  • Avoid contractors who come to you unsolicited and try to pressure you into hiring their services, require a full payment upfront, or require you to obtain permits to complete work.
  • Only issue the final payment for flood restoration work after a contractor finishes the job.
  • Never pay with cash; Use a credit card or check.

Read all agreements, guarantees, and instructions before signing. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and you understand all terms and conditions. Be wary of vaguely worded provisions, exclusions or limitations which could pose a problem later. Typically, a down payment of one-third the total contract price is made with additional payments due after completion of each phase of work. Final payment should not be made until the job is completed and you have inspected the work. 

BBB also makes these recommendations to property owners looking to obtain flood insurance:

  • Call your insurance agent or company to inquire about the availability of flood insurance in the area. Keep in mind that flood insurance becomes effective 30 days after it is purchased.
  • Standard flood coverage does not typically cover damage resulting from sewer backups or sump pump issues. Ask your insurance agent or company if such additional coverage is appropriate to add to your policy.
  • Homeowners should take an inventory of their personal property and make photocopies of their insurance policies, keeping all such important papers in a secure location away from home. Taking pictures of various rooms and their contents is also a great way to document the contents.