With areas of Northwest Louisiana impacted by heavy flooding, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is warning consumers to be on the lookout for those looking to cash in on the misfortune of others.
"While established charities shift into disisaster response mode and seek to help residents," says Caldwell, "scammers also jump on the chance to cash in on sympathy for flood victims."
Caldwell is offering tips for consumers and businesses that are looking for contractors to repair any storm damage:
1. Get at least three bids.
Make sure that each contractor bids on the exact same work, and if one contractor offers more than others, make a note of it. All bids should be itemized and detailed.
2. Know the contractor.
Get the name of the contractor's insurer, and always ask your contractor for proof of insurance. Ask for references and inspect the work done for the contractor's other customers. You can search registered contractors by visitng the Louisiana State Licensing Board of Contractors' website HERE.
3. Do not agree to a large down payment.
A down payment should not exceed 10 to 25 percent of the total price, and ideally, the customer should accompany the contractor to the building supply store and pay for the materials themselves.
4. Get a guarantee and a contract in writing.
A reliable contractor will be able to guarantee the quality of their work. Accept no verbal agreements and keep any changes made to the contract in writing, and store it in a safe place.
5. Do not pay in cash.
Always pay by check or money order, and keep a receipt. Write all checks to the company and not the individual worker, and make sure all subcontractors are paid to keep a lien from being placed on your property.
If donating to a charity that vows to help the flood victims, follow these steps to be sure that the charity is legitimate.
Verify charities by going to www.guidestar.org to find out if the charity is actually an IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization. C
Contact the Attorney General's Charitable Registration section, the Louisiana Secretary of State's Corporations Database and the Better Business Bureau before you donate.
Find out if the charity has a presence in the affected area. See if the charity's website clearly describes what it can do to address immediate needs.
Be cautious when giving online to unfamiliar charities.
Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations assist victims. All charities have fund-raising and administrative costs. A credit card donation, at the very least, will have a processing fee.
To report contractor fraud, charity scams or other disaster-related fraud, contact the Louisiana Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 351-4889, or visit Attorney General Caldwell's website HERE.
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