BBB: Hiring Contractors after Storms; Utility Fraud

July 12, 2012 4:10:54 AM PDT
Spring has sprung but unfortunately warmer weather can also bring hazardous rainstorms and flooding.

Questions for BBB's Steve Bernas? Email abc7@chicago.bbb.org

The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois reminds home and business owners it's important to beware of fraudulent contractors so they get the proper repairs for the right price.

"While there may be a sense of urgency, we encourage consumers and business owners to take time and carefully consider repair contracts," said Steve J Bernas, president & CEO of the BBB serving Chicago and northern Illinois. "Avoid rushing into expensive decisions that aggravate an already stressful time."

The BBB suggests residents consider the following before using a contractor:

Contact the BBB before you hire a contractor and avoid businesses who come to your door with a good deal. Visit www.bbb.org and consider using the BBB's FREE online service called Request-A-Quote to obtain estimates, proposals or general information from BBB Accredited contractors;

Do not give into demands to make excessively large down payments. Also, don't make full payment until all the work is done to your satisfaction;

Determine whether the contractor has the proper insurance and ask to see any required state or local permits or licenses;

Homeowners should check with local and county units of government to determine if permits or inspections are required.

According, to the Illinois Attorney General's Office, Illinois has a Home Repair and Remodeling Act that requires contractors to furnish customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. Additionally, the Act states a contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor.

The law also requires contractors to carry at least minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair.

For information on hiring a contractor visit www.bbb.org

Better Business Bureau Consumer Alert: Utility Bailout A Fraud

On the heels of last weeks punishing heat wave residents across the country including northern Illinois could fall victim to a very serious form of identity theft. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) warns that con-artists are using text messages, emails, door to door sales, websites and word of mouth to mislead individuals into thinking there is a government program authorized by President Obama's administration that will pay them up to $1,000 to cover their utility bills.

"We became aware of this scam following a number of phone calls to our offices," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. "There is no special bailout or any other kind of program authorized by the President to help with utility bills."

Victims are given bank account and routing numbers to use when paying their bills online, after they "register" by providing social security numbers and banking information, account and routing numbers. Deposits briefly appear in victims' checking accounts only later to learn they drew out of invalid accounts.

Bernas added, "There have been reports of as many as 2,000 people in Tampa, Florida and thousands of others across the country who were tricked by this scam."

The BBB suggests the following tips to help avoid falling for this trap:

Never provide your social security number, credit card number or banking information to anyone requesting it over the phone or at your home unless you have verified the identity of the party seeking the information.

If you receive a call claiming to be your utility company or the government and feel pressured for immediate personal information, hang up the phone and call the utility customer service number on your bill.

Always think safety first. Do not give into high pressure tactics, and don't let anyone in your home without checking their identity.

Don't let the immediate pressure of debt make you too anxious to think through the situation. There are sources of information available to you to give you the straight story, check with the BBB at www.bbb.org

For more tips you can trust, visit www.bbb.org http://www.bbb.org/ and for more information on scams visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BBBChicago


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