From Better Business Bureau
After a storm or disaster, scammers target those affected with high pressure, misleading, or fraudulent offers for repair services. Scammers also take advantage of stepped-up charitable appeals to collect donations that don’t go to where they say they will.
To avoid storm repair scams:
Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people are going door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it.
Be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof. While most roofing contractors abide by the law, an unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
If one estimate seems much lower than the others and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Fly-by-night contractors may give below-cost bids but often are uninsured, do shoddy work or use substandard materials, and may not even finish the job or be around later to honor guarantees.
Beware of high-pressure to sign right away. This is a sign to look at an offer even more carefully.
Check out a business with BBB at http://www.bbb.org. Check any time, anywhere with BBB mobile or the free BBB iPhone app.
To avoid after-disaster charity scams:
Make sure you know who you’re giving to. Many charities have similar names, and scammers may actually select a name that they know will be misleading.
Be wary of solicitors who approach you in person door-to-door or in public places, but don’t have written materials or answers to questions, and demand an immediate decision.
Navigate on your own to the charity’s website, or call a number you’ve located independently. A scammer may send you to a “look like” site or give you their number, not the charity’s.
Be cautious in giving to new charities. It may be difficult to distinguish well-organized charities from scammers.
Watch out for vague appeals that don’t identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.
Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on Facebook, blogs or other social media have already been vetted.
Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs.)
Check out charities and find more tips on giving from BBBWise Giving Alliance at http://www.give.org.
Contact Brian Reagan at the Dallas BBB locally in McKinney TX for ways to improve your local business.