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Tips to Help Flood Victims Avoid Fraud and Scams
May 2, 2008
The flood waters that poured into Aroostook County this week damaged homes, roads and businesses, but Attorney General Steve Rowe warns that people need to be on guard to ensure that they are not victims a second time.
“After natural disasters, door to door salespeople hit the street offering clean up and repair services. While many of these people are honest and reputable, some are not.” Rowe said, “It is important to protect your home and your wallet from unscrupulous scam artists.”
Rowe recommends that people who are insured contact their insurance adjuster to get an estimate of the repair costs and use that number as a benchmark when you hire a contractor.
Some steps you can take to protect yourself from unscrupulous operators are:
- Shop around. Do not hire the first person you talk to, get several estimates.
- Do your own research. Check references from past customers, if possible, inspect work the contractor has done in the past.
- Get it in writing. Always use a contract. Maine law requires a written contract for jobs that will cost more than $3000
- Shop local. If possible use a local business person. If you have a problem down the road, it will be easier to correct the problem if the contractor is local.
- Take your time. If the offer is good today, it will be good tomorrow. Be skeptical of high pressure tactics. A reputable contractor will not pressure you to sign a contract. Take 24 hours to review it carefully.
- Establish a payment schedule. By doing so you give yourself some leverage. Maine law states that down payments cannot exceed 1/3 of the total cost of the job.
- Get a second opinion. Have an independent inspector or insurance adjuster inspect the project before you make your final payments.
“The best advice I can give is to use common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.” Rowe said. “We have not received any complaints about door to door scams yet, and we would like to keep it that way. Doing your homework upfront is the best way to avoid getting ripped off down the road.”
If you have questions about home construction repair or if you need to file a complaint please contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 436-2131 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on consumer issues please visit our website at: http://www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/housing/home_construction.shtml.
NEWS RELEASE May 2, 2008 David Loughran, (207) 626-8577