The National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud (NCPHIF) wants to get a message out to wind and hailstorm victims: before you hire a contractor, there are some things you need to be aware of so you don't become the next victim of a home repair scam artist. And right now, victims of recent storm damage are ripe for home repair fraud and scams.
NCPHIF is a national nonprofit that educates homeowners and small businesses on how to protect themselves from becoming victims of home repair contractor fraud and scams.
"The best way to control your repair project is to learn how to control the money" says Phae Howard, home repair fraud prevention expert and Executive Director of NCPHIF. "It's so frustrating to get calls from disaster victims who have already been scammed. It breaks my heart because by then, often it's too late. We provide you with valuable information you may not think about."
NCPHIF wants to share some immediate tips with storm victims:
1. Before you hire any contractors, call your insurance agent, especially if the contractor is telling you he will pay your deductible, won't charge you a deductible, or will fill out your insurance paperwork for you. These are huge red flags, especially after a hail storm.
2. Some roofing companies are known to use aggressive and misleading tactics in order to gain business, especially after a hail storm. Pay attention to your instinct. Is he pushy? Anxious?
3. Make sure you not only get his license and insurance information, but VERIFY everything.
4. You already know to check with the Better Business Bureau in your state; check the BBB in surrounding states as well.
5. DO NOT agree to a discounted rate for allowing your home to be a "demonstration," or because the contractor has leftover materials. This is a big RED Flag for fraud!
6. DO NOT leave valuables or identity information around that can be stolen or used to commit identity fraud.
7. DO NOT become intimidated by a contractor or a salesperson that insists you "act" quickly even if the work needs to be done quickly. And if he asks for 50% up front to repair your home first, run!
8. Find out what types of projects the contractor works on. (Most contractors have specialties and do not work on every type of project. A landscaper should not be repairing your roof!)
9. Don't sign anything until you understand it, FULLY. Contact a trusted advisor or attorney. Be sure to have your trusted advisor or attorney explain lien releases to you.
10. If you allow a contractor to inspect your property, do not let them out of your sight.
"If severe weather has hit your area and you are now faced with home repair, you can still minimize victimization from contractor fraud." says Howard. "Disaster victims want to hurry and get back to normal and their desire and haste to do so, makes them more vulnerable." says Howard. "This is where NCPHIF can really be of service to them."
For more information or if you have any questions regarding your repair/rebuild project, feel free to contact NCPHIF at www.preventcontractorfraud.org or call (404) 902-6100, regardless of where you live.
About NCPHIF: The National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to inform, educate and coach homeowners on how to protect themselves from becoming victims of home repair/improvement contractor fraud.
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