Tornado victims warned of contractor schemes
In the wake of this weekend’s devastating tornadoes, the Office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and the Mississippi State Board of Contractors (MSBOC) shared tips with Mississippians who might be in need of assistance from contractors for home and business damage due to the storms.
“Tragedies can bring out the best in human nature, but also the worst,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “Knowing best practices, being a savvy consumer, and taking time to evaluate your options are always the best safeguards against becoming a victim of a scam. But in an emergency situation, it may feel like time is not on your side and you have to move quickly. Con artists and scammers prey on people who are down on their luck. Familiarizing yourself with these tips can help you protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud or deception. Of course, even the smartest consumer can sometimes be deceived. Do not hesitate to contact the Attorney General’s Office for help.”
“During times of tragedy, scammers often try to take advantage of those affected. We don’t want to see those who suffered storm damage become a victim again by falling prey to the tactics of unscrupulous contractors, ” said MSBOC Executive Director Stephanie Lee. “We encourage consumers to use licensed contractors as required by law. Consumers can verify a license and find other information about hiring a contractor to make repairs following a disaster here.”
Some tips recommended by both the Attorney General’s Office and MSBOC to protect yourself from crooked contractors:
- Residential repair or improvement projects $10,000 or more and commercial projects $50,000 or more require a valid contractor’s license.
- Be wary of door-to-door repair solicitations or people who demand deposits or payments in cash.
- Do not make a large deposit or upfront payment in full.
- Require a written contract that details the work to be done, materials to be used, a payment schedule that is based on completion of work and a timeline for work to be completed. Do not make payments before work specified on the payment schedule is completed.
- Do not make payments for any work not specified in the contract unless it has been submitted and approved in writing by you before the additional work begins.
- Contact the local permitting office or inspections department to determine if permits are required to assure building code compliance. If permits are required, the contractor should pull them. Confirm with the permit office that the contractor has acquired them before construction begins.
- Before making final payment, evaluate the completed work and require the contractor to confirm that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid to eliminate potential liens on your property.
- Request a Certificate of Insurance from the contractor and verify it is valid by contacting the party who issued it.
- Ask for proof that the contractor is licensed. Consumers can verify if the contractor is properly licensed by using the CONTRACTOR SEARCH feature at www.msboc.us or by calling MSBOC at 800-880-6161.
Contractors who have accepted payment without ever making the repair or who have provided false documentation or other misrepresentations may be reported to the MSBOC here or by calling at 800-880-6161, or to the MSAGO here or by calling 601-359-3680.