Storm victims urged to be cautious for fraudulent contractors

JONES CO., MS (WDAM) - Homeowners took advantage of the clearing skies Thursday to begin the tedious rebuilding process. Many damaged homes will require the use of a contractor to complete repairs, and it's here where residents need to be wary of whom they choose. Officials with the Mississippi Board of Contractors arrived in the Pine Belt Thursday to educate locals on avoiding a costly mistake.

Sullivan says homeowners shouldn't be in a rush to get repairs done. They expect the weather to hold up and don't want residents to make a bad situation worse. When residents are approached by a contractor, ask to see their license. This is a good first step in protecting yourself from fraud.

"We caution folks to number one to make sure they get a contract of any kind. Check the license. They may have a local license, they may not have any license, and they may say they don't need a license. We are available 24/7 from the standpoint of my phone or other phones that are available," said John Sullivan, Executive Director of the Mississippi Contractors Board.

Another possible sign of a fraudulent contractor is out of state plates or the request for money up front before work is started. Many times residents will give the money, hoping to expedite repairs on their home, and will never see the contractor again.

"One of the key notes though is going to be that they ask for money up front to go pick up the material. It's been in my experience that a licensed contractor has that money. Never, never, beyond anything else let the money precede the work," said Sullivan.

Sullivan stressed for homeowners to get references before starting work but that plenty of legitimate contractors do exist in the area.

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