Avoiding Contractor Scams

Oct 10, 2013

In the midst of disaster or an accidental property damage claim, the last thing you want to deal with is a shady contractor. Most contractors are honest and ethical, but with any disaster or type of service there will be those who are trying to make a buck dishonestly.

When you need repairs on your home it is stressful enough to deal with insurance claims and inspections. The added stress of not getting scammed rates right up there as well. There are few things you can do to help prevent hiring a shady contractor.

1. Get several bids. At least two, three bids are better, and sometimes insurance companies require a certain number of bids. Make sure that the bids are detailed and include all costs, with a scheduled date of completion. Also make sure all warranties and guarantees are included in the bid. Bids should be free, paying up front for a bid or estimate is a sign of poor business practices.

2. Hire local. Unless you live somewhere very remote, you should be able to hire a local contractor. Ensure they are established and experienced. Get referrals from family, friends and even your New Orleans insurance agent.

3. Professionalism. Ask for licensing information, insurance and bond information. Ask for references, and call them. Does the contractor portray himself as a professional? Business cards, vehicle signage and tools of the trade are good signs. Always get a written contract that covers every detail, you may even have a lawyer review it. Make sure you have a copy for your records. Upfront payments should be only material costs. Do not pay extraordinary amounts up front. Always pay by check or credit card, never cash. You can also ask for copies of material receipts to ensure that quality materials were purchased.

If you follow these practices, it would be very unlikely that you will get scammed by a dishonest contractor. If something sounds too good to be true, or unethical steer clear of it. If you suspect fraud, report it to your local fraud bureau. Helping curb insurance fraud helps keep costs down for everyone.