Cedar Rapids has once again been dealing with historic flooding along the Cedar River. And just like in 2008, thousands of Iowans have stepped up to help their neighbors in need. Over 250,000 sandbags were filled and temporary walls and levees were constructed around the city in hopes of holding the water at bay. Now, as the water slowly recedes, the citizens of Cedar Rapids are rolling up their sleeves again and starting the cleanup. While the flood has brought out the best in many people, it can also attract scammers who prey on those affected. Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau and the Cedar Rapids Police Department for dealing with the aftermath of the flood and potential scammers.
- Document Everything: First, check with your insurance company about coverage and filing requirements. Save all receipts, including food, lodging, clothing, and other items that might be covered. List the damage and take pictures or video before and during the cleanup process. This will give you a complete and thorough record for insurance claims and applications for disaster assistance.
- Shop for Services: Get at least three competitive quotes for the repairs you need. You can contact the Better Business Bureau at 800-22-1600 or bbb.org/iowa, to see a list of available companies. The Better Business Bureau also offers “Request-A-Quote” as an easy service to ask for bids from contractors. Before hiring anyone, make sure to call 319-286-5929 to verify if the contractor is properly registered and licensed by the State of Iowa.
- Rely on Experts: Do NOT trust a worker who shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe and they can fix it. Have it inspected professionally by an engineer, architect, building official, or other housing professionals. If at all possible, deal with an established and reputable local business. Get their address, phone number, and Workforce Development ID number. Furthermore, ask for local references and contact them before you hire anyone. You can also check Iowa Courts Online for past court cases, and see if there are complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division.
- Use Contracts: Before work begins, secure a written agreement/contract with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the cost, and the price breakdown for labor and materials. Make sure to also get the start and completion dates in writing and who is responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits. It is recommended that you request a copy of the contractor’s liability insurance certificate.
- Requests for up-front Payments: Scam artists will offer services and help in exchange for money for personal information. Never give out personal information and never prepay for all of the work in advance. It is advisable to make all payments by credit card or check that way there will be a paper trail left behind.
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