warns residents of scammers
if it isnt enough of a blow to sustain severe weather damage
to property, residents should be wary of scammers waiting to make
their situation even worse.
Ripley County Sheriff Tom Grills reminds residents to be watchful
for those who might take advantage of them in an already vulnerable
situation. There are people cooking up scams to target homeowners
who have damage that is weather related.
Identity theft and building scams are two schemes con-artists
sometimes use to defraud individuals recovering from manmade or
natural disasters, said Indiana Department of Homeland Security
Executive Director Joe Wainscott. While most service providers
in the building industry are honest, it is particularly important
to be alert after disasters because these situations of widespread
damage can attract scam artists and identity thieves.
Solicitors who promise to speed up the insurance or building permit
process and those who ask for large cash deposits or advance payments
in full, should be checked out thoroughly.
Some con-artists pretend to be employed by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) or other government agencies.
Here are some guidelines released from IDHS:
Ask for ID. If someone represents themselves as a federal
employee, such as an inspector, but does not produce identification,
ask to see it. FEMA or U.S. Small Business Administration shirt
or jacket is not absolute proof of someones affiliation
with the government. Federal employees carry official photo identification.
FEMA representatives are never allowed to accept money.
If someone claiming to be a federal employee or federal contractor
attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and
their license plate number to your local police department.
Safeguard personal information. Never give personal information
such as social security numbers, bank account numbers or credit
card numbers to individuals claiming to be affiliated with the
federal government. FEMA inspectors never require this information.
WHEN HIRING A
Research. You may also check with the local Better Business
Bureau, homebuilders association or trade council to independently
confirm the legitimacy of a contractor.
Check References. Contractors should be willing to provide
names of previous customers. Call several former customers who
had similar work done to make sure they were satisfied with the
Ask for a written estimate and check to make sure it includes
all the work you expect to have done, as well as taxes and other
fees. Keep in mind that some contractors charge for an estimate.
Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics. Take your time.
Dont let the contractor rush your decision.
BEFORE SIGNING A CONTRACT:
Get a written contract. Indiana law requires home improvement
contracts exceeding $150 to be in writing. Before signing the
contract, make certain it includes:
the price of the job
a detailed description of the work and materials (including
colors, brand names and patterns
estimated start and completion dates
the contractor's name and address
a name and telephone number of the person to contact if
the contractors signature
Never pay for the entire project before the work begins.
Do not pay more than one-third of the total cost as a down payment.
Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts
Hoosiers who believe they have been a victim of a home improvement
scam can file a complaint with the Attorney Generals Consumer
Protection Division by calling 1-800-382-5516 or go online: www.IndianaConsumer.com.