OPINION COLUMNS

Don’t let scammers ruin your holidays

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, November 28, 2015
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Judging from the number of phone calls the newsroom has received in recent weeks, more than just the holiday season has arrived in Wise County.

‘Tis the season for scams, apparently.

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

I received a call last week from a man who said he was contacted by a person who claimed to be his grandson. This “grandson” was in jail in another state, and he needed someone to send money to the jail to bail him out.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about this type of scam.

The man I talked to said it was strange how the person on the other end of the line even sounded similar to his grandson, but he was rightfully skeptical.

The intended victim hung up and called his grandson, who reassured him he was neither in the state nor the jail where the scammer claimed he was.

This is just one of several scams aimed at the elderly. The calls usually claim to be from a family member who is in some sort of trouble and needs money. Maybe they don’t want to call their “parents” for some reason, so they call their “grandparents.”

These scammers play on the sympathy of these individuals, and since the scam is still going on, apparently many people fall victim to this trick.

Perhaps the most common scam we hear about is the IRS scam. The scammer claims to be with the IRS and tells the victim they owe money and asks for credit card or debit card numbers over the phone. They may even threaten arrest if the payment is not made immediately.

The IRS says it never: calls about owed taxes without first mailing a bill; demands payment without giving you the chance to appeal; nor requires a certain payment method.

Our area was also ripe for scammers after the recent hail storm.

While many of the out-of-town companies who descended on Decatur were legitimate businesses, the Decatur Police Department received plenty of complaints from people who reported possible scams.

Our home phone rang a day after the hailstorm, and the number appeared to be from someone I know here in town. But instead, the person on the line was from an out-of-town roofing company who was offering a free roofing inspection.

Click.

That same day representatives were out combing the neighborhoods talking to residents about possible roof damage. We just replaced our roof a few months ago and had no intentions of getting another one so soon.

We eventually stuck the sign of the (local) roofing company we used back in our yard to deter out-of-towners from stopping.

It seemed to work.

We removed the sign to mow one day. That same afternoon, a card for roofing inspection was left in our door.

I received an email the day after the storm from the North Texas Roofing Contractors Association that offered the following tips when working with unknown roofing companies:

1. Check to make sure that the roofing contractor is in good standing with the Better Business Bureau.

2. Research how many years of experience they have as a roofing contractor in North Texas.

3. Find out if they are insured. Don’t hesitate to ask a roofing contractor for a certificate of insurance and make sure that the coverage is in effect throughout your project.

4. Find out where the roofing company is located. Have they just come to town with the storms?

5. Get warranty information in writing (for materials and labor). Consider how long your contractor has been in business and where they are located when looking at their labor warranty.

6. Do they have credit references? Ask for a list of local suppliers, and call them to ensure that the roofing contractor is in good standing. You don’t want to be left footing the bill for roofing materials.

7. Will they give you a detailed, written proposal?

8. Are they asking for money upfront? Homeowners should beware of paying before the job is complete. A partial payment for materials, however, after they have been delivered to your project location or if the material is a special high-end custom product, is not unusual.

9. Is the roofer offering to “take care of” or “eat” your insurance deductible? Talk directly to your insurance company to ensure that the offer doesn’t commit insurance fraud.

10. If the roofing contractor’s bid is significantly lower than their competitors, find out why and what materials they are using. Compare apples to apples.

More information on roofing scams can be found at www.ntrca.com.

Brian Knox is the Messenger’s special projects manager.

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