How to stay clear of snow scams

Extreme weather could mean damage to your home or cars but the Better Business Bureua wants to keep you safe from the latest snow scams.

That means workers going door to door for hire, fake contracts and people asking for all the money for their service up front.

The bureau's marketing manager said there's a tool on the Better Business Bureau website to help you as you do a little research.

"The scam tracker is a great resource too on there because you can see the different scams that have gone on in the past or get some more information before you make that decision of who you were going to move forward with, to make the repairs to any damages that may have happened during this extreme weather," said Anna Bruggeman, BBB.

Here are some tips from the BBB:

Know your coverage. Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy.

Stay calm. Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be pro-active in selecting a business and not re-active to sales solicitations. Make temporary repairs if necessary.

Shop around. For major repairs, take time to research and get three to four estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one-year-old and ask about insurance and business licenses. All work inside homes that pre-dates 1978 must be done by contractors that are Certified to Conduct Lead-Based Paint Activities and Renovations.

Be wary of door-to-door workers. Oftentimes they claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or claim they do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.

Get it in writing. Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number along with a start and end date for the work are included in contract. Don’t sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature.

Be cautious with money. Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash! While many businesses may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more than one-third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor.

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