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Scam Alert: Beware of these people at your front door

Posted at 8:27 AM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 08:27:44-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- With more and more people staying home due to COVID-19, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning of scammers knocking on your front door.

"Always use caution when hiring any service, but especially more so when hiring a home improvement contractor who shows up at your door, on a phone call or email right after a major weather event. Contractor scams can happen any time, more so after a storm," BBB spokesperson Leslie Blackwell said.

How the Scam Works:

Home improvement scams can start with a knock on your door. The contractor may offer a very low price or a short repair timeframe. One common hook is when the scammer claims to be working in your neighborhood on another project and has some “leftover construction material.”

Once started, the contractor may find “issues” that significantly raises the cost of repair. If you object, they threaten to walk away and leave a half-finished job. Or they may accept your upfront deposit and then never return to do the job. Following a natural disaster, scammers will often persuade homeowners to sign over their entire insurance reimbursement.

Tips to Spot This Scam:

Watch out for "red flags." Say “no” to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, handshake deals without a contract, and no personal referrals that the homeowner can first check out. Not all “storm chasers” are con artists, but enough are that you should be cautious any time a home contractor contacts you unsolicited.

Ask for references and check them out. Bad contractors will be reluctant to share this information and scammers won’t wait for you to do your homework. If you can, get references from past customers, both older references to check on the quality of the work and newer references to make sure current employees are up to the task. Check the contractor out at bbb.org to see what other customers have experienced. Always get a written contract with the price, materials and timeline. The more detail, the better.

Know the law. Work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing and insurance. Confirm that your vendor will get related permits and make sure you know who is responsible for what, according to your local laws, and that your vendor will fully comply.

For more information, check out this BBB tip on storm chasers. Before you hire anybody, read these tips on hiring a contractor.

Depend on CBS 6 News and WTVR.com for the most complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.Avoid non-essential travel.