Officials warn weather disaster victims about contractor fraud

AG gives advice to help not fall victim to contractor fraud after tornadoes

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Back to back weather disasters has created a mess for homeowners and with flood waters receding, many have started the daunting task of cleaning up, but officials warn that not everyone will have the victims' best interests at heart.

"Especially in cases like this where citizens may find themselves vulnerable," said Ruth Wisher, press secretary with the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General. "They may have lost a home or have severe damage to a home."

Wisher said they are trying to stay ahead of those looking to victimize people who are already victims of the storms. It is why they are reminding everyone to be very careful when picking out contractors for any home repairs. They advise people make sure to get at least three bids on any type of job.

"Go to three contractors and kind of feel them out. If one contractor is charging way more than the other two, then there may be an issue there. So, that's just a way to make sure you don't get scammed in any way," Wisher explained.

People should make sure to know the contractor. Even if the homeowner does not personally know the individual, they should do their homework before finalizing a choice. Homeowners can check online to see if a contractor is licensed through the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors and there is also the Better Business Bureau where people can check if a business even exists, its ratings and reviews.

Homeowners should not agree to a large down payment. Reputable contractors only require between a 10 to 25 percent down payment. Homeowners should try to accompany the contractor to the store and pay for the supplies themselves and have them delivered to their home.

The AG's office advises people not to pay in cash.

"You want to have proof of your purchase or any re-imbursement that may have happened so we're really encouraging consumers to pay by check or money order, where they would have a receipt to prove what they paid a contractor," Wisher added.

Lastly, people should get a contract in writing because if things go sour, at least there will be proof of the contract.

Anyone who does fall victim to contractor fraud or feels they might be a victim can visit the attorney general's website or call the AG's Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-351-4889.

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