In the wake of this week's storms and subsequent flooding that hit the area, the city is urging Chicagoans -- or all area residents for that matter -- to be wary of suspicious repair and aid offered for storm-damaged homes and businesses.
The city's Department of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection (BACP) on Saturday issued a consumer alert advising residents that these weather events not only can damage property, but also unfortunately they can bring about a wave of scam artists to prey on residents and property owners.
Scammers descend on flood-stricken neighborhoods to offer clean-up or home repair when residents are most anxious to fix their homes as quickly as possible. Pressure tactics are used to strong arm a consumer into making a decision on the spot and often require cash up front, a BACP release said.
According to BACP Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel, "These unscrupulous scammers take advantage of honest citizens at a vulnerable time. Consumers should keep their guard up, ask questions and properly vet anyone that you hire. The city of Chicago will take action on consumer complaints, but to prevent any additional suffering for the consumer, prevention is our immediate goal."
BACP recommends the following tips:
• Verify the identification of anyone who contacts you claiming to be from your insurance company or a government agency
• Be wary of door-to-door solicitors. Legitimate contractors generally do not seek customers in this manner
• Be patient; resist high pressure tactics such as the "good deal" if you hire on the spot
• Do not pay for a job in advance
• Do not pay in cash
• Always get a written estimate and a receipt
• Beware of fraudulent claim adjusters or individuals trying to collect personal identification or bank information claiming to be from your insurance company or a government agency
• Confirm that your contractor is licensed and verify the contractor's insurance
Consumers who believe they are victims of home repair or related services fraud may call the city's help line, 311.