Platte County Sheriff's Office
Mark S. Owen, Sheriff
Street Suite 10
Platte City, MO
Subject: Severe Weather Scams
Author: E. Holland
Public Information Officer
Date: March 22, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Erik Holland
Public Information Officer
RE: Sheriff Owen Warns Citizens to Watch Out for Severe Weather Scams
Severe weather season is upon us again and Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen would like to remind us to be aware of storm damage related contractor scams:
“We frequently encounter some type of spring time severe weather and the associated damage. Some years we are lucky and have very little damage while other years we are hit hard with damage from large hail storms, high winds causing tree damage and an occasional tornado. Shortly after these types of storms occur we see a large influx of out of area contractors and roofing companies roll into the county sticking up signs everywhere and offering what they call are good deals. Many of these “good deals” are scams and can cost you additional money, poor service, fraud and a lot of grief.”
Below is an example of how this type of scam occurs and tips from Sheriff Owen that citizens can use to better protect themselves.
How the scams work:
A major hail storm hits parts of Platte County causing damage to your homes siding or roof. Over the next few days signs pop up on the street corners and a contractor shows up at your door making an offer that is very tempting and at a great price. The contractor offers to start the next day or within the week if you approve his contract or offer today. The contractor then wants some type of upfront payment or for you to sign a contract that allows them to negotiate with your homeowners’ insurance company on your behalf. If you sign this document your entire insurance check may go to the contractor regardless of the work is completed correctly or done with poor quality materials.
These scams can involve the contractor never completing the work after being paid, using materials not covered by a manufacturer’s warranty that can fail. It is not uncommon for citizens to find that the contractor can’t be reached, won’t return your call, has gone out of business or has moved on to another storm effected area.
In some cases the contractor will tell you that you won’t need to pay your deductible or you can keep your insurance deductible. This can be insurance fraud and could result in criminal charges against the contractor and the home owner.
How to protect yourself from these weather related scams:
Make sure the company is legal: Be sure they are properly registered and licensed with the County and/or with your local city government. Also be sure to request proof of a current insurance certificate from the contractor’s insurance company. Scammers frequently use names and addresses of legitimate companies. Before handing over any money, independently confirm the caller or contractor’s identity by calling the business or utility company yourself.
Get Several Quotes and get it in writing: Before hiring a contractor, be sure to get multiple written quotes. If a price seems too good to be true, be suspicious. If the contractor says they are an approved vendor for your insurance company, check with your insurance company and confirm they are an approved or preferred vendor.
Don’t prepay: Carefully control purchase of repair materials. Ask for receipts from a local based vendor. Be wary if repair people ask for large payment in advance.
Pay with a credit card or check. If a contractor asks for a deposit or full payment in cash, stop. That’s a warning sign that something’s not right.
Don’t cave to pressure to pay immediately: If you feel pressured for immediate payment, just hang up or walk away. Don’t let scammers pressure you into a making an on-the-spot decision for payment or the signing of a contract or estimate.
Prepaid debit cards are a red flag: Be very wary of anyone who requests you pay by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. This is a huge warning sign. A real business will almost always accept a check or credit card.
Check References: Ask the contractor for references from several past customers that are at least a year old, so you can check on the services received and the quality of work they provided.
Check the Better Business Reviews: Look at the reviews on the contractor to find out about prior complaints, ratings and if they are even a registered company.
Use local established companies: There are many outstanding local companies in our area. Use of these companies will greatly reduce your chances of being scammed. These companies have a proven history of fair pricing and quality work. Most importantly though is they will still be here after the storm and capable of being contacted and provide any warranty work if needed.