In the minds of so many, summertime evokes thoughts of relaxation, taking it easy, going on vacation, and enjoying yourself at the beach. But, unfortunately, criminals can take advantage of you any time of the year. Fraudsters may use the fact that we are distracted by planning or going on vacation to con us. Moreover, it seems that the summer months are prone to be perfect for specific types of cons. Here are two of the most common summertime scams to avoid.
Contractor/Home Repair Fraud
Contractor fraud can happen at any time, but you should be especially cautious during the summer months. For significant portions of our country, summer is storm season and any storm could potentially damage your home or business. Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, flooding and wildfires may bring out the best in people. Still, unfortunately, some individuals prey on those who are adversely affected by these disasters.
It is important to be cautious of “Storm Chasers,” or out-of-town contractors who come into areas affected by a natural disaster or large storm to solicit business. Although not all of these out-of-town contractors are scammers, some certainly are. These contractors may offer quick fixes that do not truly repair the damages to your home. They may also make big promises they cannot deliver, leaving you holding the bag. Another danger is that the contractors may also lack proper licensing in your area.
Here are some tips to protect yourself when hiring a contractor:
- Get multiple estimates.
- Get everything in writing.
- Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements.
- If you are displaced, save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging and other expenses that may be covered under your policy.
- Do your research on the contractor you are considering hiring.
- Resist high-pressure sales. Be cautious of phone or door-to-door sales pitches from unknown contractors.
- Request and obtain a written contract before work starts.
- Read all documents a contractor asks you to sign. Be cautious of signing over any rights you have on your insurance claim to a contractor.
- Be careful in allowing contractors you do not know to inspect your roof or any other area of your home you cannot see like attics, crawl spaces and ducts. Although most contractors abide by the law, some don’t. An unethical contractor may create damage to get work.
Car Repair Fraud
In any given summer, millions of people will potentially be driving on the road for summer vacation. In addition, there may be even more Americans on the road this summer as many will take advantage of the freedom afforded to them since becoming vaccinated from COVID-19. With so many on the road, it is only natural that many individuals will end up having their car break down or be involved in an accident. If this happens to you, be careful when getting your vehicle repaired so you don’t end up getting scammed.
Common car repair schemes include the shop using unsafe parts, inflated repair bills and unnecessary repairs. To avoid these car repair fraud pitfalls you should do the following:
- Ask for a written estimate before you authorize repairs.
- Ask if repairs are guaranteed.
- Check the shop’s history with the Better Business Bureau.
- Get several estimates from different shops.
- Look for a car repair shop with certified auto mechanics.
- Avoid shops that use high-pressure sales tactics or refuse to answer your questions.
Summer should be a time to relax and enjoy the sunshine. By being aware and careful, you can avoid fiendish fraudsters ruining your fun in the sun.
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