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Warning from Better Business Bureau: Use caution when choosing contractors, donating to relief agencies

Western Washington residents may be feeling panicked and powerless as storms, high winds and floods destroy homes, buildings and other property.

Better Business Bureau cautions homeowners, businesses and charity donors that faux charities solicit donations and fly-by-night repair companies seek to take advantage of those in need during times of natural disaster.

BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington suggests doing research before hiring a soliciting contractor to help with disaster-relief:

• Be wary of bad businesses. Don’t get lured in by quick pitches or fancy advertisements. Be skeptical of businesses that expect full payment up-front, show up at the doorstep with “left-over” supplies from the neighbors’ projects, provide references that can’t be verified or offer special discounts available only upon immediate purchase.

• Compare companies. Thoroughly check out companies before hiring one to perform repairs on flood-damaged property. Collect bids, references and proof of licensing before making the decision. Make sure the contractor is properly licensed, bonded and insured. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries can help determine if a contractor’s license is required.

• Utilize BBB. During times of disaster, consumers should take steps in advance to ensure that they are only hiring legitimate and reliable companies. Find free BBB Reliability Reports on contractors, repair providers, and restoration service companies at www.bbb.org.

• Get a set price in writing. Obtain an itemized estimate before any work is performed. Negotiate a payment plan and avoid paying for the entire service up-front.

DISASTER RELIEF

BBB suggests the following tips before donating to soliciting charities that claim to offer disaster-relief aid:

• Choose a reliable charity. Be suspicious of charities that accept only cash as payment, refuse to provide a contribution receipt or solicit door-to-door without identification. Don’t give money on the spot or give into demands for an immediate donation.

• Donate wisely. Find free BBB Charity Review Reports at www.bbb.org/charity. BBB’s Charity Review Reports include information on how an organization is governed, ways it spends money, truthfulness of its representations, and its willingness to disclose basic information to the public. BBB’s Charity Review Program is a free service provided by BBB Foundation to assist potential donors in finding reliable local charities and organizations.

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