The Whistleblower blog has moved

Posted on August 31st, 2009 – 12:15 PM
By James Shiffer

The Star Tribune is still blowing the whistle, but our look and location have changed. Click here to get to the new blog. If you want the actual URL, it’s www.startribune.com/blogs/whistleblower.html. Our blog posts will now be easier to search on the web site, but you’ll need to register to post a comment. In the past, you’ve just had to provide a phony name and email address.

Take a deep breath and don’t sign on a stranger’s dotted line, says Pete the insurance guy

Posted on August 20th, 2009 – 12:18 PM
By James Shiffer

An insurance rep in Hennepin County sent along these thoughts advising storm-affected homeowners to think before they sign:

I just wanted to make a note to your story about contractors and unscrupulous practices. Do not sign away your rights, people! We just received another call today from a victim standing in his yard dealing with all of the storm damage and debris field and calling because a contractor “working in the neighborhood” wanted him to sign a “letter of representation” regarding his potential damages to his home. This practice gives “carte blanche” authority to someone you barely know or have never met, to deal with damages to your most prized possession, your home.

Take a moment and a deep breath. Is this really the time to give away your rights when you’re under duress and your adrenaline is at the highest? Take a moment and think what the ramifications could be first. If you need immediate help, get some and deal with the little things when cooler heads prevail, but don’t sign away your rights before checking these people out first!

Minneapolis woman says shady tree cutters are already roaming through the tornado zone

Posted on August 20th, 2009 – 11:35 AM
By James Shiffer

From a woman who asked to be identified only as Carolyn:

We live at 46th and Portland and had a very large boulevard tree blow down onto our’s and the neighbor’s yards, thankfully not hitting the houses. My hubby was outside, this guy comes up and says that because it’s a boulevard tree, the city would clean up the portion on the boulevard and sidewalk, but not the majority of it in our yards, and he was offering to clean it up for a price. I called the city and they said that no, if it’s a boulevard tree the city handles the whole thing. Have to know what’s up, that’s for sure! Both scam artists and legitimate businesses were out in force within minutes of the storm.

BBB: Tips on avoiding scammers and other unnatural hazards in the aftermath of Wednesday’s storms

Posted on August 20th, 2009 – 9:53 AM
By James Shiffer

Barb Grieman, vice president of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, understands the psychology of people who suddenly find trees on their house or pieces of their roof missing. That guy who shows up at your door offering to fix it right away can be hard to refuse. Yet while natural disasters bring out some of the best instincts in people, they also bring out some of the worst, as unscrupulous contractors and fast-talking swindlers crawl out from wherever they dwell during fair weather. (If you encounter any of these creatures, send Whistleblower an email or post a comment here.)

That’s why the BBB had a list of tips at the ready before the storms had finishing blowing through the metro. Here’s what they suggest:

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