7 On your side: Hurricane scams - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

7 On your side: Hurricane scams

It's hurricane season and time to beware of scammers who try to exploit consumers during disasters. The SWLA Better Business Bureau and Louisiana Attorney General's Office have tips on how to make sure disaster doesn't strike twice.

Those who endured Hurricane Rita and other disasters remember the transient workers who rode through neighborhoods, offering repairs and other services. Often storm victims desperate for help use people they later regret hiring. 

Local BBB President Carmen Million suggests now is a good time to make a list of reputable contractors to call in case of a disaster.

"Do your homework now. Get a list of contractors, get a list of tree trimmers or whatever you feel like you may need and investigate those companies. You can contact the Better Business Bureau and get that list," said Million.

Million points out the best warranty in the world is no good if you can't find the company.

"When a storm hits an area, there are storm chasers that will come into town and they will offer to do work for you, which is fine, as long as you do some investigation. Unfortunately, most consumers aren't able to check or verify if the company has a license or if the company is properly insured," said Million.

Always get a written contract; don't pay up front and don't pay in cash.

"It's just like when you build a brand new house. You pay a third when the slab is poured, you pay a third when it's blacked in, and of course, you pay a third at closing. You never pay up front," said Million.

Consumers aren't the only ones who have to watch out. Sometimes the scammers try to hit local businesses.

"We definitely encourage not just consumers but local businesses to investigate some of these people that want to come in and work under their name. Not all of them but some of them did shoddy work and of course left the local contractor to have to clean up the mess," said Million. 

Disasters also bring out scammers who want to exploit the generosity of people. Don't fall for it. Don't  give them any of your personal information, and before you give them a dime, check them out and make sure they're legitimate.

"We tell consumers if you give because it makes you feel good, but the money didn't go to the cause, you've defeated the purpose of giving," said Million.

Million points out now is also a good time to gather up personal papers. Trim trees that could pose trouble and set money aside for any insurance deductibles you may have to meet, and you make a written household inventory and back it up with photos and video.  

For more tips on how to avoid scams during hurricane season click here.

The Louisiana Attorney General has these tips.

Copyright 2014 KPLC All rights reserved.
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