CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster says scammers will be out in full force as flood victims recover from this rare winter flood.
Koster said one of the biggest scams the office typically sees following disasters is fly-by-night "storm chasers" who go door-to-door offering cleanup work. Usually, they will take your cash up front, and then never do the work.
"Unfortunately, unscrupulous individuals take advantage of natural disasters to cheat people who are trying to get their lives and property back to normal," Koster said.
The attorney general said his office saw a lot of this back when Joplin got hit my that major tornado in May 2011.
The good news is that the Better Business Bureau says homeowners can avoid this by doing their homework.
- Be cautious of door-to-door salespeople who use high-pressure sales tactics.
- Check with your insurance carrier before making major repairs. An adjuster may need to assess the damage, and the carrier may have recommendations for repairs or contractors.
- Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project.
- Ask whether the company is insured against claims covering workers' compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage.
- Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.
- Find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits.
- Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
- Read and understand the contract before signing. Get any verbal promises in writing. Include start and completion dates in the contract.
- Remember the rule of thirds. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.