PEARL, MISS., – Mississippians rebuilding from the recent storms and tornadoes should be aware that disasters often bring out phony contractors and rip-off artists who try to take advantage of storm survivors in the aftermath of the disaster.
The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency suggest ways people can protect themselves.
Before allowing anyone to do work on your home, get a written contract. The contract should detail the work to be done, the agreed-upon costs, a project schedule and a completion date. This is one of the best ways homeowners can protect themselves from contractor fraud.
The contract should also detail procedures to cancel the contract, negotiate changes and settle disputes. All guarantees should be in writing.
Before signing a home repair contract, homeowners should:
- Get three written estimates.
- Check each contractor’s credentials and references.
- Check with the Mississippi Board of Contractors at www.msboc.us to make sure the contractor is licensed.
- Make sure the contractor carries liability insurance and worker’s compensation coverage.
- Check the website of the contractor, if there is one. If the site is unfinished or unprofessional in appearance, it may be that it was quickly constructed to give the impression of being in business, when in fact, the contractor is not. A website does not verify the existence of a business.
- Confirm instructions for project clean up and construction debris removal.
Don’t pay any more than 10 percent or $1,000 down on proposed work and don’t pay with cash.
Scam artists also look for other ways to part people from their money using a storm survivor’s information. Don’t give out personal information such as your Social Security number or FEMA registration number. Credit card numbers should not be given out unless the contractor’s legal status has been verified.
If you are a victim of contractor fraud, notify the Mississippi State Board of Contractors in writing by completing the complaint form found online at www.msboc.us. The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection can investigate allegations of fraud or illegal practices by a Mississippi business. Contact them at 800-281-4418.