Better Business Bureau Warnings on Storm Damage and Amazon Prime Day Scams
Steve J. Bernas – President and CEO Chicago and Northern Illinois BBBs
Tips for victims of severe storms:
Do your research. Find trusted businesses on BBB.org. Read business valuations and business valuations and always confirm the correct insurance and licenses.
Contact your insurance company. Find out about your policy’s coverage and specific deposit requirements. Keep all receipts, including those for food, temporary accommodation, or other expenses that may be covered by your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.
Get more than one estimate. No one should force you to get more than one estimate.
Resist high pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as a “bargain” which you will only get if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and don’t react to phone sales calls or door-to-door presentations. Victims of disasters should never feel pressured into making a hasty decision or choosing an unfamiliar entrepreneur.
Be especially careful with door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a canvassing permit if vendors are door-to-door. Ask for an identity document. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number and license plates for your state or province.
Do not hand over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay it directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection compared to other payment methods). Do not sign any document that gives the contractor rights to your insurance claims. If you have any questions, contact your insurance company or agent.
Beware of places you cannot see. While most contractors follow the law, be careful allowing someone you don’t know to inspect your roof and other areas of your home. An unethical entrepreneur can actually create damage to get work.
BBB is also warning entrepreneurs and clients to beware of storm chasers who mimic legitimate businesses in what are known as impostor scams. They use the established name and reputation of the company. They masquerade as a local business and leave a trail of dissatisfied customers due to poor manufacturing, unfinished work, or broken warranties.
Here are some additional resources
Visit BBB.org to search for company profiles, file a complaint, or write a customer review. Visit BBB Scam Tracker to find and report scams.
Report scams to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Read BBB’s advice on hiring a contractor.
Shopping scams to watch out for:
Phishing scams that appear to come from a popular retailer. Phishing scams increase during peak times, like Prime Day or Black Friday. When you shop a lot, it’s easy to lose track of exactly what you bought and where you shopped. This makes you more likely to fall for a phishing scam masquerading as a department store.
Watch out for unsolicited emails, texts, or phone calls. These messages can pretend that you have a free gift waiting for you or that there is a problem with a delivery – all you have to do is click on a link or give your personal information. A recent phishing scam claims to be a call from Amazon to fix an issue with your account. This is a trick to get your credit card information, account login information, or remote access to your computer.
Beware of deceptive advertisements and bogus websites. When doing research online or browsing social media, watch out for advertisements that link to scam websites. Scammers often create similar websites that at first glance appear to be owned by a trusted retailer. But when you take a closer look at the URL, you will notice that the domain name is slightly different (i.e. instead of Popularstore.com the URL can be PopvlarStore.com or PopularStoreOnline.com ).
Always make sure that websites use the correct spelling of a business name and have legitimate contact details and customer service numbers. Also use common sense when evaluating offers. If a business claims to sell the hottest item of the year for a very low price, it’s probably a scam.
Tips for avoiding scams when shopping online this Prime Day:
- Beware of similar fake websites: Check the URL, watch for grammar errors, find domain age, find contact information, and read reviews online.
- Professional photos do not mean this is a real offer. Scammers often steal photos from other websites, so don’t believe what you see.
- Make sure the website is secureLook 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 on a website with just “http”. It is NOT secure.
- Be careful when buying sought after products. If something is sold everywhere, don’t be tempted by a good deal. Scammers often trick buyers into offering the most popular products at low prices. Here is an example involving game consoles.
- Pay with a credit card. It’s always best to shop online with your credit card. If questionable charges appear later, you can dispute them through your credit card company. Beware of any retailer who asks you to pay through digital wallet apps, prepaid cards, or other non-traditional payment methods.
For more information
Learn more about how to avoid fraudulent social media ads while shopping online. Read about the trick of the scammer tracking code.
For more tips, read BBB’s online shopping tips. If you’ve spotted a scam online, report it to BBB ScamTracker. Subscribe to BBB Scam Alerts for weekly updates on new scams.
Are you receiving packages from Amazon that you did not order? Check out our article on brushing scams on Amazon.
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