Spotting scam contractors after storms

Published: January 17, 2022 8:36 AM EST
Updated: January 17, 2022 6:26 PM EST

Many of you will spend Monday cleaning up and calling contractors to help you repair the damage from Sunday’s severe weather. But do you know what legitimate contractors can and can’t do when they help you after a storm?

It’s going to take days, even weeks, for people to pick up the pieces, but some of them won’t be able to do it on their own and will need to hire a contractor. The unfortunate reality during times of crisis is that only some contractors are trustworthy, while others wait for bad things to happen so they can take advantage of homeowners who need help.

So, there are a few things you can do to avoid hiring phony contractors.

A lot of people in Charlotte County’s Placida community, for instance, will need their roof fixed, fast. And, so far in Southwest Florida, WINK News has seen many people handing out pamphlets and business cards claiming to e insurance adjusters and contractors. Each one promises to get your home back in order quickly.

And, for Edward Murray, whose home was flipped upside down by an EF2 tornado, he’d like for the cleanup to be quick. While he knows there’s a long road ahead of him, Murray isn’t letting any he doesn’t know help him clean up.

He’s already had to turn down a few people who stopped by. “You don’t know that they are legitimate until you do business with them. That’s the sad part. I wouldn’t do business with anyone that I didn’t know somebody who knew them already,” Murray said.

Contractors are allowed to come and see you. They can come by, knock on your door and ask if you need help. If that happens, it doesn’t mean you need to write them off. Before you hire any contractor, check them out and ask for referrals.

Another trick: If a contractor is reputable, their license number has to be printed on their truck. You can look to see what it is and verify it by contacting the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

And contractors from other areas may arrive in Southwest Florida wanting to help, but they need to register with your county before they start any work at your home.

But most of the trustworthy contractors will be overwhelmed, so when you try to hire one, go further than checking online reviews and the Better Business Bureau;
make sure they’re licensed, insured and reputable.

And once you do find the right contractor for your job, make sure to have everything you’re requiring them to do in writing.

Also, never pay in full upfront. That’s a sure sign of a scam.

Murray says he’s grateful to have made it out of his home with only a scratch on his hand but knows there’ still a long way to go. “We’re just trying to do one step at a time,” he said.