The Better Business Bureau issued a warning Tuesday to Chicago-area residents affected by storm damage, noting door-to-door scams are on the rise in the wake of recent storms.
Residents in need of quick home repairs should use caution when hiring a contractor, the BBB warns, especially if the contractor comes to the door using high-pressure sales tactics.
"Each year, the BBB releases an annual Scamtracker Risk Report listing the riskiest scams, and home improvement scams are always in the Top 5, hitting consumers hard with an average loss of over $1,000," said Steve Bernas, CEO and president of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, in a statement.
In some cases, such scammers demand upfront fees, then perform shoddy work or no work, Bernas stressed. Not all are con-artists, the BBB said, but residents should be cautious anytime a home contractor contacts you before you reach out to them in the wake of storms.
"Watch out for 'red flags,'" the BBB said. "Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, handshake deals without a contract, and on-site inspections."
The BBB issued the following tips to protect yourself:
--Ask for references and check them out. Bad contractors will be reluctant to share this information and scammers won't wait for you to do your homework. If you can, get references from past customers.
--Check them out at bbb.org to see business ratings and reviews of what other customers have experienced.
--Illinois law requires that contractors provide a written contract for any repair work costing $1,000 or more. Make sure the contract includes the price, materials and timeline. The more detail, the better.
--Know the law. Work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing and insurance. Confirm that your vendor will get related permits and make sure you know who is responsible for what according to your local laws and that your vendor is ready to comply. For more information, check out these tips on hiring a contractor.