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New York State Insurance Department says beware of hurricane scams


August 30, 2011

Benjamin M. Lawsky, Superintendent of the Department of Financial Services, today warned New Yorkers to protect themselves from home repair and other scam artists, who will try to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners who suffered property damage from Hurricane Irene.

"Most people and businesses will be hard at work rebuilding, but sadly some dishonest people will try to take advantage of others misfortune to make a quick dishonest buck," said Superintendent Lawsky. "You don't want to add being cheated to the damage you have already suffered from the hurricane. You can protect yourself by being on guard and taking simple precautions."

Home repair fraud increases exponentially following a major storm. It is essential to protect yourself.
These are some warning signs that tell you to avoid a contractor or salesman. Beware of anyone who:
1. Comes to your home or calls you on the phone and offers to make repairs.

2. Tells you that you must make repairs immediately.

3. Talks too fast to confuse you and pressures you to sign a contract immediately.

4. Tells you that they are doing work in your neighborhood and that they have extra materials left from another job.

5. Offers a discounted price or discounts if you refer others, but only if you buy today.

6. Tells you something that sounds too good to be true. It probably is not true!

7. Is not an established local business, but has come to the area from somewhere else to "help."

"It is a good idea to review with your family how to handle someone coming to your door to sell a home repair. If you all know what to do, that will help prevent home repair scams," Lawsky said.

Some suggestions for the safe way to find a contractor to repair your home.

• Check out contractors. Is the company reputable? How long has it been in business? Ask for references and then check them out. Make sure the company is licensed, bonded, and insured. Ask to see its insurance policy or certificate of insurance. There are on-line resources for finding out other people's experience with contractors.

• Get at least two estimates. Many companies give free inspections and written estimates -- get two or three before choosing a contractor. Remember that the lowest price is not always the best deal. Compare costs, materials, and methods suggested by different companies to decide what materials and methods are best for your home.