With storm season well underway in Oklahoma, the Better Business Bureau® of Central Oklahoma wants Oklahomans to stay safe, and, in the case of disaster, remain aware of scams involving insurance, repair, and even the good will of those wishing to help.
BBB hopes to prevent such scams by offering the following tips to help consumers avoid home repair scams:
- Research. Before making a decision, research the company you want to use. Ask around for repair references or visit bbb.org to find a business you can trust. BBB offers Business Reviews on more than a million home contractors. Find a local home repair company and use BBB as a tool to assure that the company you are hiring is accredited or licensed, as well as lives up to the standards you expect in a business.
- Don’t cave to pressure to pay immediately. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose a contractor on the spot. Carefully control purchases of repair materials and be wary if companies urge for more than a third of the payment upfront.
- Get it in writing. Before hiring, it is helpful to have the specifics of what you are agreeing to in writing. Do not accept over the phone quotes, especially if the company has not been to assess the damage. Always be aware of low estimates that seem too good to be true, because they usually are. Once a decision is made, review a written contract that specifies the price, the work to be done, who will be doing it, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and the expected deadline.
- Use payment methods with built in protections. Avoid requests that ask you to pay an individual, or use a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. If possible, insist that payments must be made to the company by a credit card or check. By using a credit card, additional protection may be provided if there is a problem.
- Stay alert for specific scams. Be wary if a contractor states he will assist you in obtaining a FEMA construction loan. FEMA does not give loans, but grants in varying amounts.
Unfortunately, scammers will take advantage of every opportunity, including disaster relief. Be wary of false storm victim donations, and scammers trying to take advantage of your good will.
BBB offers these tips to avoid donation scams:
- Only contribute to established reputable charities or local groups that are well known or familiar.
- Never provide any credit card or personal information over the phone
- Instead of donating cash, ask if clothing, cleaning supplies, food, or other basic needs could be donated.
- Research the business and seek a physical address, website, or BBB rating.
Help keep other Oklahomans informed of suspicious activities or scams by filing a complaint with BBB. Report it on BBB Scam Tracker at https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/us and BBB will work with the individual or business to come to a satisfactory resolution for both parties.
Contributed by Maddie Mitchell, Communications Strategist
Maddie Mitchell is a senior studying public relations and international studies at the University of Oklahoma. She is a resident of Norman, Oklahoma, and a graduate of Yukon High School. She enjoys writing about tips and tricks for all occasions, and the books she can frequently be found reading.