Better Business Bureau warnings on storm damage & Amazon Prime Day scams

Midday News

Steve J. Bernas – President & CEO BBB of Chicago & Northern IL

http://www.bbb.org/chicago

Tips for victims of severe storms:

Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on BBB.org. Read business reviews and business ratings and always confirm proper insurance and licensing.

Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.

Get more than one estimate. No one should pressure you from getting more than one estimate.

Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.

Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if salespeople go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for your state or province.

Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.

Be wary regarding places you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.

BBB is also warning contractors and customers to both beware of storm chasers who imitate legitimate businesses in what are known as impostor scams. They use the business’s established name and reputation.  They masquerade as a local business and leave a wake of unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship, unfinished work, or unfulfilled warranties.

Here are some additional resources

Go to BBB.org to look up business profiles, file a complaint, or write a customer review. Visit BBB Scam Tracker to research and report scams.

Report scams to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Read BBB’s Tips on hiring a contractor.

Shopping Scams to look out for:

Phishing scams that appear to come from a popular retailer. Phishing scams increase during busy shopping times, such as Prime Day or Black Friday. When you are making a lot of purchases, it’s easy to lose track of exactly what you bought and where you shopped. That makes you more likely to fall for a phishing scam posing as a big name store. 

Look out for unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls. These messages may claim you have a free gift waiting for you or that there is a problem with a delivery – all you need to do is click on a link or give up your personal information. One recent phishing con claims to be Amazon calling to fix an issue with your account. This a ruse meant to get your credit card information, account login details, or remote access to your computer.

Beware of false advertising and phony websites. When searching online or browsing social media, watch out for ads that point to scam websites. Con artists often create lookalike websites that, at first glance, appear to belong to a trusted retailer. But when you look more closely at the URL, you’ll noticed that the domain name is slightly different (i.e., Instead of Popularstore.com, the URL might be PopvlarStore.com or PopularStoreOnline.com).

Always make sure websites use the correct spelling of a business name and have legitimate contact information and customer service numbers. Also, use common sense when evaluating deals. If a company claims to be selling the hottest item of the year at a super low price, it’s probably a con.

Tips to avoid online shopping scams this Prime Day:

  • Beware of fake lookalike websites: Check the URL, watch for bad grammar, research the age of the domain, search for contact information, and read online reviews.
  • Professional photos do not mean it’s a real offer. Scammers often steal photos off other websites, so don’t believe what you see.  
  • Make sure the website is secure.Look for the “https” in the URL (the extra “s” is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar. Never enter payment or personal information into a website with only “http.” It is NOT secure.
  • Be careful purchasing sought-after products. If something is sold out everywhere, don’t be tempted by a seemingly great deal. Scammers often trick shoppers by offering the most popular products at low prices. Here’s one example involving game consoles.
  • Pay with a credit card. It’s always best to make online purchases with your credit card. If any shady charges turn up later, you will be able to contest them through your credit card company. Be very wary of any retailer that asks you to pay by digital wallet apps, prepaid money cards, or other non-traditional payment methods. 

For More Information

Learn more about avoiding scam social media ads when shopping online. Read about scammers’ tracking code trick.

For more advice, read BBB’s tips on online shopping. If you’ve spotted an online scam, report it to BBB ScamTrackerSubscribe to BBB Scam Alerts for weekly updates about new scams. 

Receiving packages from Amazon that you didn’t order? See our article on Amazon brushing scams.

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