Hood: Beware of scam artists

Source: MGN

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood is warning residents to beware scammers who prey on storm victims. He says scam artists often try to take advantage of disasters.

Following storms like Mississippi has had this week, scams for tree removal and related repairs often surface.

Here are some tips to follow to protect yourself from fraudulent tree cutters, roofers and others:

• Verify that the company you are considering is insured. Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance.

• Do your research. Contact our Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi to see if they have complaints against the company. Ask for several local references that are recent of at least one year-old and make sure to follow through on checking them. Look online at reviews of their work.

• Take time to shop around and be suspicious of any price that seems unusually high or low. Get written estimates from more than one company and check with friends or family who’ve had tree work done recently to see what they paid and who they would recommend.

• Ask how the job will be done and if they will perform the work according to industry standards. For tree removal services, pay attention to the “lingo” such as “topping a tree,” “lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree.” If you hear these sayings, the company may not follow industry standards. “Topping” is drastically cutting back the major limbs of a tree to reduce its size. “Lion’s tailing” is an extreme stripping out of most of the interior branches of a tree. Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save money by removing more of the tree at one time. However, these practices can injure or kill your tree a tree, and trees pruned by one of these methods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in order to save it.

• Ask about cleaning up and the debris removal after the job is done. Before the job is started, ask if the company will remove the tree, damaged roof, or other items from your property as well. If you don’t, it could lead to you having to also pay for debris removal.

• Hire only licensed and bonded contractors. Ask to see the license and verify the bond.

• Use Mississippi contractors if you can. You can verify the contractor’s license and if they are insured by checking online at www.msboc.us

• Be wary of supposed contractors who come to your home soliciting business. Most reputable contractors will be busy and won’t need to solicit business.

• Always get more than one estimate. Three bids are recommended. Ensure that all quotes are in writing for the full scope of the work.

• Request references and follow up with these references. Don’t assume that just because a reference is provided that it is a positive one.

• Put all of your terms in writing. A copy of a “model contract” can be found atwww.agjimhood.com. A contractor who won't put pricing or warranty information in writing may be planning to defraud you.

In the aftermath of any storm or any other time, if you suspect home repair fraud or think you may have been conned by a scam artist, please contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at (601) 359-4230or (800) 281-4418.