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Our View: Use care to avoid scams

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

On Friday, McHenry County was one of 11 Illinois counties to be declared a federal disaster area as a result of last month’s flooding along the Fox River.

More than 800 homes were affected, McHenry County Emergency Management Agency Director David Christensen told the McHenry County Board last week. About a quarter of them meet federal criteria for reimbursement.

The federal assistance could include grant money and loans to pay for repairs, property losses and temporary housing. McHenry Board members last month waived all permit fees through year’s end related to repairing damage from the flooding.

Whether you have pending flooding repairs or anticipate hiring somebody to do work on your home this summer, you should be aware of how to avoid being scammed.

The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips:

• Research contractors;

• Request bids from two or three different companies;

• Base all bids on the same criteria;

• Do not automatically pick the lowest bid;

• Do not give in to demands to make excessively large down payments, and do not make a full payment until all the work is done to your satisfaction;

• Determine whether the contractor has the proper insurance;

• Ask to see any required state or local permits, or licenses;

• Check with your local and county units of government to determine whether permits or inspections are required;

• Work with contractors who have a verifiable track record;

• Get all estimates in writing.

Additionally, Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office offers these tips:

• Call the attorney general’s Consumer Fraud Hotline to check out a contractor and to learn whether any complaints have been filed against a particular business;

• Be aware that you have the right to cancel a contract within three business days if you signed it based on the contractor’s visit to your home;

• In the case of disaster repair, if your insurance carrier denies coverage, you have the right to cancel the contract within five days of when your insurance carrier denies your coverage.

If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud, call Madigan’s office at 800-386-5438.

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