Springfield, IL-(ENEWSPF)- After a tornado struck Harrisburg and severe storms raked surrounding southern Illinois counties last week, Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged area residents to protect themselves from home repair con artists eager to exploit natural disasters for personal profit as they begin to confront the process of rebuilding.
Madigan warned residents with damaged property that home repair scam artists are known to move into affected areas to take advantage of people rushing to secure their property and make repairs. Madigan noted that these “storm chasers” try to catch people off guard to pressure them into making a quick, often expensive, decision.
“The storms this week were a terrible tragedy,” Madigan said. “The last thing these grieving communities need is additional pain caused by con artists seeking to take financial advantage of this natural disaster. Residents should be on guard for possible scams as they begin cleaning up and piecing their lives back together.”
As area residents and business owners solicit repair work in the wake of the storms, the Attorney General encouraged them to verify contractors have the necessary insurance and required permits. Madigan also urged them to take extra caution before making any decisions to repair or rebuild damaged or destroyed property and avoid rushing into signing a contract or making a down payment.
Madigan offered the following tips that can assist families and businesses from being duped by dishonest contractors:
- Be wary of contractors who go door to door to offer repair services. Home repair con artists are often transients who move quickly into a troubled area. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, whenever possible, use established local contractors.
- Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline to check out a contractor and to find out how many consumer complaints, if any, have been filed against a particular business.
- Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around for the best deal. Get written estimates from multiple contractors and don’t be rushed into a deal.
- Get all of the terms of a contract in writing and obtain a copy of the signed contract. Never make full payment until all the work has been completed to your satisfaction. Never pay in cash.
- Be aware that you have the right to cancel a contract within three business days if you signed it based on the contractor’s visit to your home.
- In the case of disaster repair, you have an additional right to cancel. If your insurance carrier denies coverage, you have the right to cancel the contract within 5 days of when your insurance carrier denies your coverage.
- Ask to see required state or local permits or licenses. Insurance adjusters must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, Division of Insurance, and roofers must be licensed by the Division of Professional Regulation. If the contractor does not have a required license, or if the name on the license doesn’t match the name on the contractor’s business card or truck, that should raise a red flag.
Attorney General Madigan reminded consumers that the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act requires contractors to furnish customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. A contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor.
The law also requires contractors to carry at least minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair. Contractors also must provide consumers with an informational pamphlet entitled “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights.”
Residents also should be aware that some scam artists even attempt to impersonate government agencies. In the wake of major storms and tornadoes, media reports have indicated that consumers were called by someone falsely claiming to be associated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting bank account information from the consumer that would assist with the repair of their storm-damaged home. Madigan said consumers should never give out personal or financial information over the phone.
More information on consumer scams can be found at www.IllinoisAttorneyGeneral.gov. If consumers suspect storm chasers are attempting to scam residents in their area, Attorney General Madigan urges them to call the Consumer Fraud Hotline at 1-800-243-0618 (Springfield) 1-800-243-0607 (Carbondale).