Johnson County is all too familiar with the cleanup process following severe weather. Vestiges of the 2008 flood remain unresolved.
While the recent tornado and flooding aren’t as widespread, the struggle will be just as hard for the families involved. And in that traumatic period, unscrupulous scammers are all too eager to step in and take advantage of weary homeowners.
The Indiana Department of Homeland Security offered a strong warning, along with advice, on how to avoid getting scammed in the aftermath of storms.
“Experiencing storm damage of any kind is a very stressful event and homeowners want things back to normal as soon as possible,” said John Erickson, the department’s director of public information. “That said, we urge all Hoosiers to be aware of those trying to take advantage of a difficult situation.”
Erickson said that while there are many reputable contractors in Indiana, it’s not unusual for scammers to show up in areas with water, roof or tree damage and pose as contractors willing and able to help immediately. Often, these people collect a down payment for promised work and are never seen in the area again, the agency said.
Here are tips for hiring a contractor after a storm or any time:
- When approached by a contractor, ask for proof he or she is licensed and bonded.
- Do not pay for any job in advance and be suspicious of any contractor who demands full payment up front.
- Do not automatically hire people who just show up at the door offering services, especially for tree or debris removal and roof repair.
- Resist high-pressure sales tactics.
- Pay by credit card, if possible. That may allow for additional protection should there be a problem. Do not pay in cash.
- Check to make sure the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with business name and phone number or website.
- Make sure the scope of work and all promises, along with a timeframe and final price, are made in writing.
- For repairs that are not as time sensitive, try to always get three bids from different companies.
- The lowest bid is not always the best bid.
So as Johnson County families clean up, repair and rebuild, following these simple precautions will help prevent them from being devastated a second time.
Hoosiers who believe they may have been a victim of a home-improvement scam can file a complaint with the Indiana Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
The complaint form is available for downloading at IndianaConsumer.com or call 800-382-5516 to request a form by mail.
For more information on remediating flood damage, visit getprepared.in.gov.
Unscrupulous scammers will seek to take advantage of families recovering from recent violent weather.
Following some basic precautions will help families from being victimized a second time.