How to protect yourself from seasonal scams

8:52 AM, Nov 30, 2015

As the cold winds blow in the winter season, they can also bring other unwelcomed guests — storm chasers looking to scam innocent people out of their hard-earned money.

Storm chasers descend on people during their most vulnerable time: after a winter storm slams the area, leaving damage to trees, roofs and other parts of the home. They typically offer low prices on services such as roof repair, tree trimming and removal or other critical home improvement services.

Anyone hit by this kind of storm damage may be desperate and want to have repairs done as soon as possible. Don’t let your emotions affect your judgment. Educating yourself about how scammers operate gives you an advantage against them and can help you avoid losing your valuable time and money.




Here are a few tips to keep you a step ahead of the scammers.

Check for credentials

If a door-to-door salesperson comes knocking, there are a few things to check on immediately.

First, ask if the company has a permit to work in your city or town. Many local governments require special permits for door-to-door sales representatives as a way to document their services and performance.

Next, ask for printed materials like brochures, business cards or anything on a formal letterhead. If the company doesn’t have any of these, consider this a major red flag. Printed materials are standard for reputable businesses; in fact, the representative should offer you them before you even need to ask.

Also, make sure that the company looking for your business has liability insurance. Any reliable company will provide proof of insurance on request. Liability insurance is a must — it protects the workers and you, as the homeowner, in case someone gets injured while working on your property.

Finally, if you’re still not sure about the company, ask friends and neighbors if they have experience with the business. You can also go online to research the business’ background or see if there are reviews available about its performance and reliability.

Beware the pressure zone

All companies want to make a sale; it’s how they stay in business. However, questionable businesses often resort to tactics to pressure potential customers.

  • Be wary of low price offers. You know the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true…Scammers often resort to lowballing quotes thinking the customer will jump at the deal and pay them right away. Which, leads to the second pressure tactic.
  • Do not pay up front. Payment should be made after the work is done. A small deposit is sometimes acceptable, but most businesses won’t demand full payment until the job is finished.
  • Do not pay in cash, if possible. You have no records or recourse if the work isn’t done to your satisfaction when you pay with cash. Most businesses will accept a personal check with the proper ID. This provides proof of payment to you and a way to stop payment, if the services were not performed to your specification.
  • Do not accept verbal agreements. Get everything in writing! Project quotes, payments made, any warranties and guarantees. If it’s not in writing, the company can change the agreement without your knowledge and you have no proof of the original agreement terms. Any reputable company will provide full documentation throughout the entire process.
  • Do not sign anything on the first visit. Tell the salesperson you want to get some other estimates on the project. The representative may not appreciate not closing the deal right away, but no one can force you to agree to terms on the first visit. You have no obligation to the salesperson and you won’t know if you’re getting a good deal without consulting other service providers.

Seasonal scamming is an unfortunate reality in today’s culture. Take the time necessary to make informed decisions about which business you allow to work on your property. Your home, your dollars and your peace of mind will be safer as a result.

For updates on the latest scams, or to use the Better Business Bureau’s search to check out businesses and charities from our comprehensive database of BBB Reviews, click here

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