HOUSTON – Disasters bring scam artists out of the woodwork to prey on already frazzled homeowners. That's why you have to be careful about who you hire to make repairs to your home.
Consumer expert Amy Davis is showing us tricks shady contractors use and how not to fall for them.
We've already received reports of contractors and clean-up crews going door to door in flooded areas where the water has now receded. One local roofing company owner says the only thing you should buy that starts with a door knock is Girl Scout cookies.
It's because many of the drive-by contractors don't even have offices or employees in Texas. When they are finished with repairs, they will leave town. If you have a problem with their work, you won't be able to reach them to fix the job.
With today's technology, anyone can make a website with a local address or a magnetic sign for their truck with a local area code. You need to investigate further. One way to do that is go to your old yellow pages. Is the company listed there? If the contractor says his company has been around "x" number of years, but they're not in the old phone book, something's fishy.
Instead of using someone who shows up unsolicited at your door, ask friends and relatives for recommendations of companies they've used. Check the contractors on the Better Business Bureau and on Angie's List. You should also google the name of the company along with words like "scam," "complaint" and "rip-off."
Get estimates from at least three companies so you have a better understanding of what the cost of your repairs should be. When you get the estimates, don't reveal estimates from other contractors or the amount your insurance company is offering.
Be extremely cautious signing any documents from the door-to-door contractors. One common scam is that they ask you to sign a contingency waiver, claiming it will only give them permission to speak with your insurance company. What they're actually doing is tricking you into signing a document that promises them the job. If you cancel, you have to pay a penalty even if they haven't done any work on your home. You could be signing your claim directly to the contractor, meaning you will never see a penny of your claim settlement.
If the reputable contractor or roofer you want to use is not available as soon as you like the job done, you can hire another contractor just to tarp your roof so that it won't leak until the full repair can be made. You should let your insurance company know before you do that as well.