How to Avoid Contractor Scams Targeting Hurricane Victims

Fly-by-night contractors often swoop in after severe weather and take advantage of desperate homeowners seeking help.

So, if you need to hire a contractor, how can you find one you can trust?

Use these suggestions now — from finding the contractor to meeting them and handling financial transactions — and avoid regrets later.

Contractor Gear
References and previous clients are evidence of good contractors that will provide your needs. (Zolnierek/Getty Images)

1. Find a Reputable Contractor Who Can Get the Job Done

Ask for references from previous clients and contact them. Call friends and family for referrals. Your local Home Builders Association is another great resource for qualified contractors.

Thoroughly research the contractor you’re considering and verify that he or she routinely does the type of work that you need.

Office Building
If the contractor doesn’t have an office location, it might be safer to turn the other way.(contrasaddict/Getty Images Pro)

2. Know the Red Flags — and Stay Away

Ensure the contractor you’re considering has a physical office/place of business. And avoid contractors with poor personal appearance, shoddy tools, filthy or broken equipment and vehicles in poor condition.

Don’t be lured by deeply discounted materials or “secret” deals; this is a telltale sign of a scam.
And pay attention to the estimating process — is the contractor taking measurements? Making notes? If not, he or she isn’t the right contractor for you.

If you’re being asked to pay 50% or more upfront, it could be a potential scam. (towfiqu barbhuiya)

3. Pay Attention to the Payments

The standard is to pay 10-20 percent initially to get a job going. If your contractor demands a large upfront payment, walk away. And don’t agree to pay anyone in cash — establish a written agreement and stick to it.

Be the boss and stay in the know — ask questions and monitor the job. Take notes and photos along the way.
Deliver the final check only after a thorough walk-through. Your wallet is your leverage!

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