By Louise Ronald
When bad weather rolls through, what the Consumer Protection Division of the Indiana Office of the Attorney General calls “storm chasers” often follow close behind.
These aren’t the kind of storm chasers that track the path of a tornado. They are scammers out to defraud homeowners.
They will knock on your door with an offer to make repairs. They might say your roof (or some other part of your property hard for you to see) is damaged. Or they might claim to have helped your neighbors and have just enough materials left to fix up your place, too.
They might ask for payment up front.
Very likely, they will press you for a quick decision.
Those are some of the key warning signals that you are dealing with a scammer.
“I refer to them as ‘predators,’” said Wayne County Sheriff Jeff Cappa. “They prey on good people.”
Unfortunately, many of their victims are senior citizens – especially, Cappa said, seniors living in rural areas.
According to the Attorney General Office’s website, “Door-to-door sales of home improvements and repairs are notorious for targeting seniors who many physically need help with maintaining their homes and who may be intimidated by a door-to-door contractor who comes to their door.”
Barbara Miller, an outreach services specialist with the Consumer Protection Division, is blunt: “Don’t do business with somebody who knocks on your door after a storm.”
And not only after a storm. The advice applies anytime. “If somebody approaches you with a service, that’s probably somebody you don’t want to do business with,” Miller said.
Her office gives tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of a home improvement scam at www.in.gov/attorneygeneral/2545.htm. Most of it is common sense: Take your time. Do your homework. Get multiple quotes. Make sure contractors are licensed and bonded. Get a contract in writing. Check with the Better Business Bureau.
The Attorney General’s office has a list of companies that have been involved in cases of fraud. To check about a company you are considering, call the Consumer Protection Division at (800) 382-5516.
And if you don’t realize you might be a victim until someone is pressuring you for payment for a half-finished job?
“Please do not hesitate to contact my office,” Cappa said.
The number is (765) 973-9393 and the website is http://sheriff.co.wayne.in.us.
*If you live within city limits, contact your local police department. If you live in counties other than Wayne County, contact your sheriff’s office.
37 East Main Street
Hagerstown, IN 47346
Phone: (765) 530-8011