Buyer beware

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

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

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

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

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

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

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:


No grace period to pay health care premiums

Monday, August 17th, 2009

It’s no surprise that Greg Lee isn’t the only unemployed Minnesotan to be caught off guard by a COBRA health coverage cancellation notice. His predicament, featured in my Sunday column , arose after a minor accounting error on his part. Lee’s coverage was administered through Igoe Administrative Services, a San Diego-based company that handles COBRA for his previous employer LA Fitness. For the last month, he had been trying to get Igoe to reinstate his coverage. But it turns out that Lee might have had more luck if he knew that there was a federal government department tasked with handling these types of situations. (more…)