McKenzie: Have I got a storm cleanup deal for you! - The Daily Progress: News

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McKenzie: Have I got a storm cleanup deal for you!

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Posted: Sunday, July 8, 2012 5:04 pm | Updated: 3:23 pm, Tue Jan 22, 2013.

Yow, my checking account balance needs to be brought up to zero!

Luckily, the financial gods have smiled upon me. There is serious storm damage out there and I’m ready to make money the easy way: I’m stealing it.

With a borrowed pickup, a magnetic sign and a chainsaw, I can raise some bucks by knocking on doors and offering to perform veritable feats of magic on your storm debris for an amazingly low price.

Of course, you need to pay me upfront right now to take advantage of this great price offered today only, being as I just happened to be in the neighborhood.

And, above all, don’t tell anyone what a great deal I’m giving you!

And please don’t check on me at the Better Business Bureau or you’ll see my scam running. You’ll also recognize my fellow shysters looking to fleece your sheep.

“It happens whenever we have a disaster like this. People show up, talk homeowners into a quick repair at a great price and do a portion of the work and disappear with the money,” warned Tom Gallagher, of the BBB.

There are plenty of us practiced in the art. We show up when you’ve just about had enough of that tree in the front yard or the battered deck in the back or whatever storm damage may have occurred.

Our hope is that you’re tired of waiting for your regular contractor to break free from repairing other homes. Maybe you don’t have a regular contractor or have a slim budget to work with. Maybe you just want to get a great deal.

“If the price is too good to be believed, don’t believe it,” Mr. Gallagher said. “Speed, selectivity and secrecy; those are the hallmarks of a scam. If someone you don’t know shows up on your door and wants to do it right now, with payment first, that’s a warning. If they just happened to be coming by, that’s a good indication of a scam. If they say, ‘don’t tell my boss about the great price I’m giving,’ that’s a big indication. If all three are there, it’s most likely a scam.”

If you’re a senior, live alone and aren’t readily capable of clambering upon the roof to rip a pine tree limb from limb and I happen to drop by, that’s an even greater indication something may be amiss.

“Older people are more likely to invite people into the homes and to trust people,” said Gordon Walker, of the Jefferson Area Board for Aging. “The most vulnerable people tend to be older women living alone and they’re also less likely to report being scammed. The scammers know that.”

That’s why, if you decide to take a stranger up on the deal, you always get things in writing.

“And don’t give out your Social Security number or your credit card number and never pay in cash,” Mr. Walker warned. “Pay with a check. If you’re suspicious, call the consumer protection agency (of the Virginia attorney general’s office) at 1-800-522-9963.”

You can go online at www.bbb.org, as well.

“Don’t pay the total up front,” Mr. Gallagher warned. “And don’t be pushed into a decision. You have the First Amendment right to say ‘no.’ When you exercise that right, you save yourself a lot of trouble.”