The Wichita Area Builders Association is warning of potential scam artists posing as legitimate contractors who often show up in communities impacted by natural disasters to try to scam distressed homeowners into paying for shoddy repairs or work that they will never show up to perform.

Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Does not have license and insurance. All professional contractors should be insured and able to show their certificate proving such insurance. Although all states do not require licensing, contractors in states requiring licenses should have it and be able to provide a copy.
  • Asks you to sign anything before you have hired them. If they want you to sign an “estimate” or “authorization” before you have made the decision to hire the contractor, be cautious. They may be trying to get you to sign what is an actual binding contract.
  • Does not write contracts. Professionals have clear contracts that outline the job, process, the cost, and helps clarify how problems will be managed. If you do not have a contract, you are not protected when something goes wrong. Do not hire anyone who tells you a contract “won’t be necessary.”
  • Requires cash or payment in full before starting the job. Shady contractors demand cash and then run with the money. A deposit towards materials is common, but only pay it once you have a contract signed by both you and the contractor. It is also suspicious if you are asked to pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check or money order to a company.
  • Vastly underbids all other contractors. Such contractors may cut costs on quality, which can end up costing you more when you have to have the substandard work redone.
  • Offers “special” pricing. If you are told you have been “chosen” as a demonstration project at a special, low price, or you are told a low price is good only if you sign a contract today.
  • Cannot provide customer references. Professional contractors should have current references they can provide from current and past clients — and you should be able to reach those references, not just an answering machine.
  • Difficulty contacting the contractor. Professionals have a physical office, mailing address, phone, and email. They should respond to your queries in a timely manner. Make sure you can verify the contractor’s business address. If they only have a P.O. box, be wary.
  • Tells you to obtain the building or remodeling permits. Professional contractors go to the county or state offices and get permits for their work themselves. Asking the homeowner to do it is a sign that they are not a legitimate contractor.
  • If your state requires contractors to be licensed, look them up on the state licensing website even if you have seen a piece of paper that looks like a license. Make sure they do not have a record of consumer complaints lodged with your local Better Business Bureau. Contact the Wichita Area Builders Association and verify they are a member in good standing.

The Wichita Area Builders Association compiled a list of nearly 60 Contractors, Builders, Remodelers, Suppliers and Financial Institutions who are Licensed and Insured WABA members who have stepped up to say that they have availability to work with Homeowners and Businesses impacted by the Andover Tornado. You can view the list here.

Photo Credit: KWCH