WASHINGTON, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — Attorney General Jim Hood wants to remind Mississippians who suffer property damage as a result of severe storms or flooding to be on alert for scam artists and aware of the many dangers that come from scammers following disasters and storm damage.
“Our thoughts go out to our friends and neighbors around the state who have been impacted by the recent storms. Our job is to ensure that Mississippi storm victims are not victimized again by unscrupulous contractors or other scam artists who prey on misfortune,” Attorney General Hood said.
Following storms like those in Mississippi this week, many scams involve tree removal and related repairs. Here are some tips to protect you and your loved ones from fraudulent tree cutters, roofers and others:
· Verify that the company you are considering is insured. Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance.
· Do your research. Contact our Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi to see if they have complaints against the company. Ask for several local references that are recent of at least one year-old and make sure to follow through on checking them. Look online at reviews of their work.
· Take time to shop around and be suspicious of any price that seems unusually high or low. Get written estimates from more than one company and check with friends or family who’ve had tree work done recently to see what they paid and who they would recommend.
· Ask how the job will be done and if they will perform the work according to industry standards. For tree removal services, pay attention to the “lingo” such as “topping a tree,” “lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree.” If you hear these sayings, the company may not follow industry standards. “Topping” is drastically cutting back the major limbs of a tree to reduce its size. “Lion’s tailing” is an extreme stripping out of most of the interior branches of a tree. Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save money by removing more of the tree at one time. However, these practices can injure or kill your tree a tree, and trees pruned by one of these methods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in order to save it.
· Ask about cleaning up and the debris removal after the job is done. Before the job is started, ask if the company will remove the tree, damaged roof, or other items from your property as well. If you don’t, it could lead to you having to also pay for debris removal.
Additionally, Attorney General Hood offers these tips to help keep you from becoming a victim of home repair fraud:
· Hire only licensed and bonded contractors. Ask to see the license and verify the bond.
· Use Mississippi contractors if you can. You can verify the contractor’s license and if they are insured by checking online at www.msboc.us
· Be wary of supposed contractors who come to your home soliciting business. Most reputable contractors will be busy and won’t need to solicit business.
· Always get more than one estimate. Three bids are recommended. Ensure that all quotes are in writing for the full scope of the work.
· Request references and follow up with these references. Don’t assume that just because a reference is provided that it is a positive one.
· Put all of your terms in writing. A copy of a “model contract” can be found atwww.agjimhood.com. A contractor who won’t put pricing or warranty information in writing may be planning to defraud you.
“In situations following widespread damage to homes or businesses caused by storms, tornadoes or flash flooding, crooks will be on a scavenger hunt looking to take advantage of vulnerable homeowners,” Attorney General Hood said. “These con artists will take your money and run and any unskilled contractors could potentially perform careless work.”
Attorney General Hood urges you to educate yourself on how to best protect you and your family and to take time in advance of a storm to develop and practice emergency plans. Having necessary supplies on hand, a communications plan with your loved ones in place, and insurance and financial account information ready will assist consumers during and after a storm. More information can be found in “Consumer Tips for Storm Victims” as well as a copy of the “model contract,” which will help you avoid becoming a victim of home repair fraud. Both of these resources can be found atwww.agjimhood.com.
In the aftermath of any storm or any other time, if you suspect home repair fraud or think you may have been conned by a scam artist, please contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at (601) 359-4230or (800) 281-4418.