The Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning Mississippians affected by late March storms to be on the lookout for scam artists posing as contractors.
Insurance settlements, grants, and loans have been allocated to allow homeowners to begin work on their damaged homes. However, homeowners are urged to hire contractors who are authorized to do the work and will complete the work, rather than fake or unlicensed ones looking to make a quick buck.
FEMA says to be suspicious if you encounter:
- High-pressure sales or scare tactics.
- Lack of references.
- People with no permanent place of business.
- Those seeking a handshake agreement or resisting giving a written estimate.
- Demands for cash for unusually large down payments or for advanced full payments.
- Special deals or extremely low bids.
FEMA offers these suggestions for protection against scammers:
- Reputable contractors will provide a written contract detailing the scope of work, the general time frame of when the work will be done, and the cost of the project.
- Ask contractors for references from past customers.
- Ask about their insurance coverage and verify that coverage. Contractors should have disability and workers’ compensation insurance. If they don’t, you may be liable for accidents on your property.
- Make sure contractors have the proper licensing and are bonded.
- Make sure contractors obtain the necessary permits to do the job.
- Take pictures of your contractor, their business card and driver’s license and their vehicle and license plate.
- Do not sign documents that give a contractor the right to your insurance claims. Do not sign insurance checks over to a contractor. Get an invoice from your contractor and pay them directly, preferably with a credit card; in this way the charges may be disputed, if necessary.
- Don’t sign completion papers or make a final payment until the work is done and has been done correctly. Inspect the work to be sure it is done correctly and as agreed.
Mississippians impacted by storm damage have just nine days remaining to apply for federal assistance before the May 25 deadline. Applications can be submitted here.