ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Attorney General Kwame Raoul reminded Illinois residents to watch out for scammers looking to exploit home and business owners in need of repairs from flood-related damage.
Raoul offered these tips to help protect families and business from dishonest contractors:
- Be wary of contractors who go door-to-door to offer repair services. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, whenever possible, use established local contractors.
- Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline (1-800-386-5438 in Chicago, 1-800-243-0618 in Springfield, and 1-800-243-0607 in Carbondale) to check out a contractor and to learn if any complaints have been filed against a particular business.
- Visit the Better Business Bureau’s central Illinois, St. Louis or Chicago websites to see if a business is a member and whether any complaints have been lodged against it.
- Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around. Get written estimates from multiple contractors, and don’t be rushed into a deal.
- Get all of the terms of a contract in writing, and obtain a copy of the signed contract.
- Never make full payment until all the work has been completed to your satisfaction.
- Never pay in cash.
- Be aware that you have the right to cancel a contract within three business days if you signed it based on the contractor’s visit to your home.
- In the case of disaster repair, if your insurance carrier denies coverage, you have the right to cancel the contract within five days of your insurance carrier’s denial.
- Ask to see required state and local permits and licenses. Insurance adjusters and roofers must be licensed by state agencies. It should raise a red flag if the roofer or adjuster does not have a required license, or if the name on the license doesn’t match the name on the business card or truck. Please visit the IDFPR’s website to search for roofing licenses. Visit the DOI’s website or call (866) 445-5364 to verify that a public adjuster is licensed and in good standing.
In May, a state disaster proclamation was issued for 34 counties and more than 400 Illinois National Guardsmen were activated to support river communities.
According to the attorney general’s office, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency has received reports that “storm chasers” have already started entering some communities to take advantage of residents and business owners.
Raoul warned residents that scammers may be operating as insurance adjusters or public adjusters, who also go door-to-door offering to help homeowners get insurance money for home repairs. He reminded homeowners that they should work directly with their insurance companies for free.
According to Attorney General Raoul, general contractors are not required by state law to be licensed, but municipalities may require permits or have other local requirements.
Home and business owners should check with their local governments for more information about permits or requirements before hiring.
Insurance adjusters must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Insurance and roofers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
Raoul also reminded consumers that the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act requires contractors to provide customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. A contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor. The law also requires contractors to carry at least the minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair. Contractors also must provide consumers with an informational pamphlet.
He encouraged residents and business owners to contact their local law enforcement agency and his office’s consumer fraud hotline to report any suspicious activity.