Big storms can mean major headaches for homeowners, who have to worry about everything from fallen trees to roof repair. But don’t fall for a new scam called the “Storm Chaser Scam,” Painesville Credit Union CEO Lori Guzzi said.
“It seems to happen after a major storm,” she said. “A handyman knocks on your door and offers up services on everything from yard cleanup to window repair, but after they take your down payment, you never hear from them again.”
The scam is so popular that Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine warns consumers about it on his website.
“They promise to do the work immediately and ask for payment up front, but they leave without finishing the job. We encourage people to be careful and to research contractors before making payments,” DeWine said. “In some cases, the contractors targeted consumers in storm-damaged areas, accepted large down payments (sometimes the consumer’s insurance check), and left before completing the work.”
How can you stay safe?
• Research every business before writing them a check. As for the business’s name, address and phone number. Then check for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.
“Sometimes all you need to do is an internet search with the business’s name and for reviews. Use the search term ‘scam,’ too,” Guzzi said.
• A great way to get around scammers is to ask friends and family for recommendations of contractors they have used. “If your best friend or cousin had a great experience with their contractor, then that’s a good endorsement!” Guzzi said.
• Get three estimates. “If one contractor comes in substantially lower than the other three, that’s a red flag,” Guzzi said.
• Try to pay for repairs or home improvements in increments, instead of plunking down a large advance payment. Never sign over your insurance check.
• Insist on a written contract that details the costs, the work to be done, and the start and end dates for the work.
• What if you already signed on the dotted line? Good news: you have three days to cancel any contract from a door-to-door seller if you aren’t comfortable with the terms.
Stay alert to avoid scams! If you have any questions, call us at Painesville Credit Union at 440-352-8974.