COLUMBUS. As the hot hurricane season hits, Attorney General Dave Yost is reminding Ohioans to beware of home renovation scams and fake charities collecting donations on behalf of hurricane victims.
“Shadow storm hunters make my blood boil – they turn to severe weather sightings and warnings to try and make a quick buck.” Yost said. “And bogus charities come from the same swamp. Their goal is to rob people who are trying to help.
“My office is working hard to show the people of Ohio how to spot these scammers.”
Unscrupulous contractors come to storm-hit communities to offer their services to homeowners, but then do poor quality work or don’t work at all. In many cases they go door to door claiming they can get the job done right away.
The Attorney General’s Office recommends that consumers take the following steps to avoid home renovation scams:
Explore the business. Ask for an ID from a company representative; write down the person’s name, address, and phone number; and be wary of any contractor that does not provide this information. Check the company’s reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. You can also look for possible previous lawsuits filed by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division.
Get multiple written grades. Getting at least three written ratings from three different contractors can help you weed out bad apples. Beware of contractors who only have a few projects for your review.
Don’t make large upfront payments. Instead, pay in installments—for example, a third at the start of the job, a third after half the work is done to your satisfaction, and a final third when the job is complete.
Get all promises in writing. Insist on a written contract detailing costs, work to be done, start and finish dates, and any verbal promises made by the contractor. The contract should also specify whether subcontractors will be used and whether the contractor has or will obtain the necessary licenses and permits. Insist that you be given a copy of every document you sign or initialize.
Understand your cancellation rights. If the contract was formed as a result of a door-to-door sale, you usually have three days to terminate the contract, in accordance with the Ohio Home Sales Law. The seller must provide you with written notice of these rights.
Consider paying by credit card. Paying with a credit card, unlike paying with cash, usually gives you more protection against unauthorized charges.
When it comes to charitable donations, donors should research charities and ask questions. Donors must take the following steps to ensure that gifts are used for their intended purpose:
Visit the Attorney General’s Research Charities webpage to see if charities are meeting registration requirements, contact charitable watchdogs, and see what others have to say about this group. News articles and other publications may also contain useful information about groups, board members, and key employees.
Request to view 990 forms that most tax-exempt groups must submit to the IRS. These forms describe where organizations get funding from and how they spend it.
Support familiar, established organizations with a strong track record and experience in disaster management. Tragedies can sometimes prompt the creation of new charities, which may or may not have the necessary experience to provide meaningful assistance or effectively manage charitable activities.
Talk to friends and family about unfamiliar offers. Have they heard of the group? Do they know anyone who has benefited from this?
Ohio residents who suspect fraudulent sales practices or misuse of charitable resources should contact the Ohio Attorney General at www.OhioProtects.org, Charitable.OhioAGO.gov, or call 800-282-0515.