By John Voket


I have learned a lot from various consumer protection agencies and other government agencies in virtually every state in the nation. In many cases situations being reported in one state are actually happening across numerous states and even the entire country.

With the potential for serious storms and hurricanes threatening homeowners and properties this fall and winter we picked up on this warning from Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

That agency recently noted that a frequent problem after a disaster is "fly-by-night" contractors who take deposits before starting work or final payment before finishing. The agency offers some good advice that is applicable far beyond Florida however.

When seeking a post-storm contractor the agency advises property owners to be cautious of repair businesses or individuals who:

Solicit door-to-door
Arrive in unmarked vehicles
Have a post office box or temporary address
Claim they are from another county or state and are in the area solely to help disaster victims
Or claim that they were doing work in the area and noticed that your home needed repairs.

The agency advises that if your home is in need of repair you should get at least three itemized estimates and check each contractor's address license and complaint history; never agree to a cash-only deal; and ask for a written estimate and inspect the terms carefully before signing and agreeing to any offer.

Honest contractors earn the majority of their business through referrals from satisfied customers they don't have to to travel door-to-door to find business. Ask contractors to justify their bids by listing the work/materials that are included - this allows you to make valid comparisons between any estimates.

Florida's DBPR also recently issued a consumer advisory after learning that individuals falsely posing as Department employees are allegedly targeting victims of timeshare scams. The callers are asking victims for cash to pursue refunds for the money they lost in order to obtain full repayment for the victims.

Remember no matter where you are the rule of thumb is - do not respond to any unsolicited caller saying they represent a government agency by giving out personal information by sending money or authorizing them to deduct money from a bank account.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. 2013. All rights reserved.