Beware of contract scams
by Shaka S. Lias
Mar 07, 2011 | 2273 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last year, an elderly woman was taken advantage of when a "contractor" agreed to do a roof job. He started the job but didn't complete it. The amount of money lost by the woman is unknown, but Capt. Mike Stewart with the Cartersville Police Department said it was "quite a substantial amount of money."

With unexpected storms like the one that hit Bartow County last Monday leaving trees down and damages to some homes, homeowners could feel the need to quickly seek repairs.

However, the Better Business Bureau advises them to carefully check contractors before signing a contract for repairs.

Stewart couldn't agree more. He said at times like these, people are easily taken advantage of, especially the elderly. He has seen many such cases.

"They would pay a down payment or the full amount, and the people will do a little bit and never complete the job," he said.

Stewart advises prospective consumers to get an estimate of damages and allow contractors to complete the job before paying.

"If there is a contract involved or verbal agreement, I still would not pay them until the work is complete," he said.

Stewart said also to be aware of the contractors that ask for money to buy materials to start the job. Most legitimate workers will have money to buy the materials up front.

He advises victims or those who may be victims to file a police report immediately.

"We will follow up on it. If there is criminal intent involved, we will make charges," he said.

Catching the person is unpredictable, sometimes they are caught, sometimes they are not. Stewart said if they give the victim legitimate information they have a better chance.

"Lots of times they give false business names and information which makes our job more difficult," he said.

Consumers can help by writing down tag numbers and business names off of trucks. Basically, get as much info as they possibly can in case something does happen.

Stewart said it also would help to check for a business license in the city the contractors claim they are from.

The Better Business Bureau has the following tips for hiring contractors:

* Be cautious of door-to-door salespeople who use high-pressure sales tactics.

* Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project.

* Consumers should ask whether the company is insured against claims covering worker's compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage.

* Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.

* Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work.

* Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job.

* Read and understand the contract before signing. Get any verbal promises in writing.

* Remember the rule of thirds. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.