Posted: 1/12/2016

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El Niño has hit on the west coast and many states have suffered severe weather and flooding. When you’re dealing with keeping your family, home, and automobile safe, the last thing on your mind is falling prey to a con artist. But scammers unfortunately don’t break for poor weather conditions. In fact, they just change their game in order to wreak havoc on more victims.

flash floods

El Niño has hit on the west coast and many states have suffered severe weather and flooding. When you’re dealing with keeping your family, home, and automobile safe, the last thing on your mind is falling prey to a con artist. But scammers unfortunately don’t break for poor weather conditions. In fact, they just change their game in order to wreak havoc on more victims. Whether it’s relief scams, charity fraud, home improvement or disaster scams, it’s important to look for red flags and warning signs of a scam. Here are tips to guard against being conned:

  • Cleanup scams clean you out. Debris is a common occurrence after a storm or other extreme weather conditions. Be skeptical if someone approaches you, promising immediate cleanup for an up-front payment. Instead, look for someone with the skill, license, and insurance to legally do the work. Check on them with your state or local consumer protection agency. Negotiate a reasonable down payment before signing any contract and avoid making full payment until the work is completed and you’re satisfied.
  • En Garde! Though the term is typically used in fencing, being on guard is extremely important when dealing with anyone who will have access to your home. Ask for identification of anyone who wants to enter your home or business. Check the signage on vehicles to make sure they are who they say they are. If you feel uneasy or have any doubt, trust your gut and possibly take your business elsewhere.
  • Double-check information. If a contractor tells you some work is covered by your insurance, don’t just take their word. Call your insurance company to confirm if the work is covered.
  • Don’t pay cash. Use a credit card or check to pay for work. If there is a problem you may be able to file a dispute or stop payment on the check.
  • Watch for charity scams. In the wake of disasters and events, charity scams pop up almost immediately. Don’t let scammers pull at your heart strings. A bogus charity won’t do your contribution any good. If the charity can’t give or refuses to provide detailed information about themselves, their mission, or how your donation will be used, walk away. Do the same with individuals that pressure you to donate right away before you have had time to vet their charity. You can search for charities on the IRS website or call their customer account services division at (877) 829-5500.

Need a contractor or other professional? Have insurance needs? BCA is your one-stop shop. Use the BCA search to find businesses that are ready to meet your needs.

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Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.

Tags: scams, contractors, charity

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