In many Nebraska communities, homeowners are being affected by flooding. As flood waters rise, so does the potential for Nebraskans to get scammed by unscrupulous businesses promising cheap goods or services. In times like these, it's important to remember that an offer that seems too good to be true probably is.
Your home is the largest single investment you will ever make. Taking a little extra time when choosing a contractor can really pay off in the end. Remember, the best sources for finding a reputable contractor will be your friends and family.
Be extremely wary of contractors who try to pressure you into making an immediate decision, who insist you pay them in cash or who are not from your community. When you find a contractor that suits you, do not pay the full amount in advance. Be specific when describing your expectations of the job and your expected timeline. Reputable contractors will agree to be paid as the job progresses, with the final payment held until the job is completed to your satisfaction.
Here are more tips for consumers to follow when considering hiring a contractor:
• Get at least three estimates when possible. Compare the prices and what's included for the price. Be sure you are comparing apples and apples.
• Ask friends for recommendations.
• Make sure the contractor is bonded, licensed and insured. Get proof in writing and call the agencies to confirm.
• Insist on a written contract. Contracts should include description of the work being done, materials used, and beginning and end dates.
• Don't sign an incomplete contract.
• Keep records of all contracts, correspondence and anything related to the work done.
• Be careful working with a contractor who doesn't have a local address. Out-of-state contractors can be more difficult to contact if there's a problem.
• Don't sign documents you don't understand or contracts with blank spaces.
• Only sign a certificate of completion when you are satisfied with the completed work.
• Check out the company with Better Business Bureau of Nebraska. Records of company reliability and customer complaints can be accessed at www.bbb.org.
In flood-damaged areas, some goods may be harder to come by. When flood waters rise, sandbags and affordable places to store your belongings are highly sought-after. But, however competitive the markets, Nebraskans are required to advertise goods and services properly.
Bait and switch advertising occurs when an item is advertised at a price so low it lures you in. That is the bait. Once there, however, you find the advertised item is not for sale and the salesperson encourages you to buy or switch you to a more expensive product.
To avoid falling for bait and switch tactics, deal only with reputable firms and contact the local Better Business Bureau for a reliability report. Also, be careful of ads that offer an astonishingly low price and salespeople who try to switch you from the company's advertised special.
Finally, ask about service after the sale and be sure you understand any warranty that is offered. Pay special attention to who will honor it, what it covers and for how long.
For more information on how to avoid falling victim to these and other scams, contact our Consumer Protection Division at (800) 727-6432 or visit www.ago.ne.gov.