INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 23 -- The Indiana Attorney General issued the following news release:
Victims of weekend flooding caused by Saturday's heavy rainfall are warned that flood damage often brings out fraudulent contractors who attempt to rip off consumers.
Fly-by-night contractors often travel to areas hard-hit by storms and natural disasters to offer repair and clean-up of damaged homes and removal of debris. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Hoosiers in areas flooded by the weekend's heavy rains should know their rights and fully research a company before signing a contract.
"Flood damage immediately before the holidays is a particular hardship; and because of the need to make repairs quickly before the worst of winter weather sets in, scam artists might use the time pressures to take advantage of victims. If a contractor tries to push you into making a quick decision and signing on the dotted line, your decision should be no. It's always best to do business instead with local, long-established, bonded home-repair contractors with good reputations for working with customers," Zoeller said.
The Attorney General's office offers several tips to be avoid being ripped off by home improvement contractors:
* Get a written contract before any work is performed or payment is made. Indiana law requires home improvement contracts exceeding $150 to be in writing.
* Before signing a contract, make certain it includes the cost, payment schedule, description of work, estimated start and completion dates, contractor's contact information and contractor's signature.
* If you receive an insurance check, then have it made out in your name to maintain control of the funds and do not sign it over to your contractor.
* Do not pay more than one-third of the total cost of the project as a down payment. Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts of work.
* Do not make the final payment to the contractor until you know that all subcontractors and/or suppliers have been paid. Get written proof of payment. Subcontractors and suppliers may file a mechanics lien against your home if they haven't been paid.
* Keep all records related to your project including the contract, change orders, warranties and any correspondence in case problems arise.
Any consumers who feel they have been ripped off are encouraged to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office by visiting www.IndianaConsumer.com or by calling 1-800-382-5516.
Flood damage carries its own unique concerns, including preventing mold infestation. Residents with flood-damaged properties are urged to visit this website for additional information: http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pdfs/afterflood_tips.html
Zoeller said Hoosiers should also be on the lookout for possible charity scams this time of year and visit www.IndianaConsumer.com for help on how to recognize red flags. Consumers can visit www.CharityNavigator.org to assist in identifying legitimate relief organizations and determine how much of their donations are used to help victims rather than on administrative overhead.