Several homeowners in Carmel, Ind., received phone calls this week from a man offering to sweep their chimney, falsely claiming that a city ordinance requires it. “He’s saying he’s a member of the Carmel Fire Department, and that just isn’t the case,” says assistant chief Jeff Steele. As of Wednesday, the department has received six calls from confused homeowners, and Steele expects that number to grow as more homeowners are alerted.
It’s a new year, but scams like this are old hat. Keep these tips in mind to safeguard yourself from shady service companies:
• What not to do: If a stranger offers to perform work for cash upfront, just say no. Chances are, he or she will take your money and disappear, leaving you with no way to get your money back or get the work done – a frequent tactic used after .
• Do your research: Don’t just hire based on a conversation. Check references and/or business standing on Angie’s List or similar services before hiring anyone. If your contractor balks at providing references, move to the next one on your list.
• Get estimates: Take the time to get at least a few different estimates for your job. And get it in writing – documentation is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong.
• Where can I reach you? Be cautious of contractors who give you a post office box with no street address, or use only an answering service.
• License for hire: Don’t rely on the contractor’s word to know whether his or her license is valid: check it out through the appropriate agency. Check the status of the contractor’s bonding and liability insurance coverage too.
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