(Springfield, Mo – August 9, 2013) – The recent damage done by the storms and flooding in Southwest Missouri brings out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors who take advantage of those who have already been victimized.
While the Red Cross and other established charities shift into disaster response mode and seek donations to cover their costs, scammers also may jump on the chance to cash in on sympathy for storm victims. Fly-by-night contractors often go door to door after storms, offering to help victims clear debris or patch up homes.
Your BBB offers the following tips for hiring contractors:
- Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors, and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.
- Do not pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront.
- Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.
- Get a written contract that specifies the price, the work to be done, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Require a copy of their current certificate of insurance.
- Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.
- Check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and license plates for your state.
During this time of emergency, contractor scams aren’t the only scams coming out of the woodworks, charity scams also increase. BBB offers these tips when making charitable donations:
- Rely on respected experts to evaluate a charity. The BBB provides a Wise Giving Guide to charities at www.bbb.org/charity. The guide shows which charities are accredited by the BBB and whether they meet the BBB’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
- Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fund-raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card or text donation will involve, at least, a processing fee.
- Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities. Be wary of spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization.
- Find out if the charity has a presence in the affected areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers into the area to provide assistance. See if the charity’s website clearly describes what it can do to address immediate needs.
- Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups. You may want to avoid the middle man and give directly to charities that have a presence in the region.
- Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations may not be appropriate. Unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid, the donations may be more of a burden than a help. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief.
Storm damage victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses and Charities and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org or call 417-862-4222.
For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 116 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada. BBB provides objective advice, educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust and free business reviews and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM on more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org or call 417-862-4222 for more information.