Sunday, Sep 25, 2016
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Caution urged on cleanup contracts

COLUMBUS - State officials are warning residents of Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties about how to avoid fraudulent contractors who offer to help with recovery efforts.

"Fly-by-night contractors come out after storms like the ones we had on Saturday and Sunday, preying on those desperate to get their homes repaired," said Mary Jo Hudson, director of the Ohio Department of Insurance.

Unscrupulous contractors, she said, tend to prey on people eager to get their property repaired after serious storms.

In one instance reported, a consumer unwittingly granted power of attorney to a roofing contractor who then negotiated the insurance transaction and pocketed the consumer's insurance proceeds without doing the work.

People who believe they have been conned can contact the insurance department's Fraud and Enforcement division at 1-800-686-1527 or the Ohio Attorney General's office at 1-800-282-0515 or file a complaint on the Web site SpeakOutOhio.gov.

Tips from state officials to avoid contractor fraud include:

•Deny entry to the property to anyone not providing proper identification; do not allow inspections when you are not present.

•Do not give out personal information, Social Security numbers, or bank account numbers in most instances.

•Obtain a list of reputable contractors from your insurance carrier, the Better Business Bureau, or a specialized consumer organization.

•Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.

•Request references from contractors and contact the references to verify work was completed timely and to satisfaction.

•Obtain in writing the terms and conditions of the project.

•Avoid signing a contract until it is reviewed and discussed by you with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.

•Avoid signing a contract that has not been completed fully.

•Pay contractors by check or credit card, rather than in cash.

•Never sign your insurance check to a contractor. Instead, arrange for a certificate of completion with your bank.

•Do not pay a contractor in full, or sign a completion certificate, until all work has been finished.

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