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Like those involved in other natural disasters, flood-affected people can find generosity and compassion from others.

But such times also can bring out scam artists seeking to take advantage of others.

The Fremont Police have some words of caution for those looking for contractors to do work on their property.

Lt. Ed Watts encourages people to check websites like the Better Business Bureau to see if the company is registered with them and see what kind of BBB grade that firm has.

He also suggests people use Google to see if there are reviews they can read from other people who have worked with the company.

“I would encourage people to make sure the contractors have any local licenses or permits that might be required and if they get estimates from two or three companies and one seems really low, they might be suspicious of that — and get everything in writing,” Watts said.

The Fremont Police Department has some BBB booklets in its lobby.

Consumers also may call the BBB at its toll free number: 1-800-649-6812. The booklet also lists the numbers of its Omaha office as 402-391-7612 and Lincoln office, 402-436-2345.

The Better Business Bureau booklet includes these tips:

• Beware of any service provider who uses high-pressure sales tactics, requires full payment upfront or asks you to get the necessary permits.

• Besides offering business profiles on contractors across the country, consumers can rely on the BBB’s Accredited Business Locator at https://www.bbb.org to find trustworthy service providers in their area.

• Before starting repairs, check the personal liability section of your homeowner’s policy for specifics regarding injuries on your property or call your insurance company. Policies vary widely. Typically, major injuries aren’t well covered.

• Instead of relying on your homeowner’s insurance for protection regarding injuries on your property, make sure your contractor is bonded, licensed and insured and has documentation to prove it.

• If a contractor is bonded, it means you are financially protected if the contractor doesn’t complete the job or it is completely poorly. Insurance covers liability claims that may arise during a project and you won’t be held responsible for injuries or damages.

• When contractors claim to be insured, check to see that their insurance covers any bodily injury or property damage the company causes to you, your family and your property. Also make sure it has workman’s compensation for injuries contractors cause to themselves or their employees.

• Ask your contractor to supply you with a certificate of insurance and phone numbers you can call for verification that their policy is in effect and it’s in the name of the company you’re hiring.

• Make sure the contractor’s insurance covers accidents involving his or her own equipment.

• Don’t provide your contractor with anything of yours to use on the job. Contractors using your ladder could claim an injury was caused by your faulty equipment not their clumsiness. This could lead to an insurance battle and a lawsuit.

• Beware of traveling contractors. Although not all travelers are scammers, they may lack proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes or make big promises they can’t deliver.

• Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number and license plates for your state.

• Conduct at least three interviews. Allow a full hour for each interview. Get quotes in writing. Don’t accept estimates over the phone. Beware of very low estimates.

• Get a written contract. Make sure it specifies the price, the work to be done and who will do it, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor and a time frame.

• Watch out for contractors who ask homeowners to sign an estimate that is actually a contract. This is a deceptive way to get the consumer to hire a company without realizing it.

• Be wary of places you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your property. An unethical contractor actually may create damage to get the work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts and other places you cannot easily access or see yourself.


News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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