Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Conway Warns Storm Victims of Potential Scams
Attorney General Jack Conway continues to urge victims of the recent storms to be aware of potential con-artists who may attempt to prey on them in their time of need. Some concerns of “travelers” are being reported in the Johnson County area and consumers are encouraged to be wary of any door to door contractor offering services. Often these solicitors are fly-by-night contractors or other storm repair companies which may converge upon the area to take advantage of the storm victim’s situation.
“Unfortunately, it is often difficult to make informed decisions when disaster strikes and the time of need is immediate,” said Attorney General Conway. “These situations create an environment for fraud and victims are especially vulnerable to storm chasers and travelers offering services to those whose homes have been damaged. Shoddy construction, price gouging, charity scams, impersonating officials, and taking money without performing the work are common scams which occur during natural disasters”.
Attorney General Conway’s Office of Consumer Protection advises consumers needing home repair work to follow these guidelines:
• Ask family and friends to recommend contractors they have previously contracted with.
• Ask if the contractor licensed if required by the city or county?
• If out of town, does the contractor have an established, licensed business elsewhere? Does the contractor have a city business license in your community, if required?
• Is the contractor insured? If so, ask for proof. Also, does the contractor carry workman’s compensation insurance?
• Can the contractor provide references of previous customers? Contact them to determine if they were pleased with the work performed.
• Do not rush into signing a contract right away.
• Get at least three estimates, if possible, before making a decision.
• Insist on a written contract.
• Read the fine print on any contract.
• Will local suppliers be used? Do they have established accounts with the suppliers? Confirm this and ask if the contractor is in good standing, if they can share this information.
• If you are asked to pay for the supplies upfront, offer to pay the supplier yourself. Be aware that liens may be placed on your property if the contractor does not pay for your supplies. Better yet, ask the contractor to provide a lien waver before starting your job. A lien waiver is a receipt that indicates that the workers or the suppliers will not ask for money once you have paid the contractor. Don’t sign a consent of owner statement which says you, the property owner, will cover the costs of materials and labor if the contractor doesn’t pay.
• Do not pay up front for the service. Pay as the job is done to your satisfaction.
• Be suspicious of contractors offering to finance your repair work. Remember, their finance charges will probably be higher than a local lending institution.
• Contact your regional Better Business Bureau to check the reputation of a contractor.
• If you suspect unscrupulous contractors in your neighborhood, get a description of the vehicle, the license number and any other identifying information and contact your local law enforcement.
For more information, contact the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection at 1-888-432-9257. Other consumer resources include the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.