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Homeowners should be on alert for traveling contractors

As the cleanup from last weekend’s storm continues, local business and consumer groups are telling homeowners to be on guard for scams.

The Greater Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce has already received “a few inquiries” about contractors, president and CEO Jim Ristow said, but “we haven’t seen a swarm of them.”

Ristow said those looking for a contractor or tree removal service should always double check credentials before hiring. He said the chamber, the Better Business Bureau and friend recommendations all are sources of reliable businesses.

“If they’re a chamber member, it’s really easy for us to verify,” Ristow said.

Door-to-door sales, lack of written contracts and asking for money up front are all tactics used by traveling contractors. Ristow said homeowners should also be wary of tricks contractors use to make themselves appear local, like a sign on the side of a truck with a local address and phone number.

“People tend to think that’s a local contractor when they’ve never been here before,” he said, adding the BBB is a good source to check if a contractor has a footprint in the area.

“Better Business Bureau is a great way to check,” he said.

Homeowners should be patient, Ristow said, because with the scope of damage after a last week’s storm, local businesses can be overwhelmed with customers and may take a few days to respond. He said people should be patient and be wary of knocks on the door.

“The ones that are showing up at your door, there’s a reason they’re showing up at your door,” he said.

The Better Business Bureau, too, urges homeowners to slow down.

“Disaster survivors should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor,” BBB president and CEO Jim Hegarty said in a release.

Ristow also cautioned to be on guard even after hiring a contractor. Unscrupulous contractors may cause damage to a home in order to jack up the claims and repair costs, he said.

“We highly recommend being at home when (the contractors) are inspecting your house,” Ristow said.

In addition to contractors, t-shirt sales with proceeds that will supposedly benefit Bellevue Public Schools have arose. While it isn't clear the t-shirt sales are a scam, no one has contacted the district in regards to these donations, Bellevue Public Schools Communications Director Amanda Oliver said.

Be cautious, BPS Superintendent Jeff Rippe said, and ask lots of questions.

Oliver said they're not requesting any donations, however if anyone is planning to sell merchandise to benefit the district, reach out to the communications department to inform BPS.

Following the storm, OPPD has also reported phone scam attempts. They call customers claiming to be from OPPD and demand money for repairs, replacements or alleged overdue bills. Those with questions about payments or accounts should contact OPPD directly.

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