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:


A $25,000 windfall from the government? Even in the age of stimulus, don’t believe it

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Earlier this week, the phone rang in Diana Johnson’s home in Robbinsdale. The stranger on the line had a tantalizing offer: a no-strings-attached $25,000 grant from the government. He offered a list of reasons why she qualified, one of them being that she had no criminal record. Just give us your debit card number so we can confirm our records, Johnson was told. I won’t do that, she said. It starts with a 4, the caller responded. The cards all start with a 4, Johnson said. She managed to get the caller to tell her his company was “Uncle Sam’s Money” and the phone number, (202) 470-5675.

When Whistleblower called that number Friday, I spoke to Carlos Williams, customer service representative with Uncle Sam’s Money in Washington D.C. Williams said the caller was an impostor.

“This is the third complaint I just got right today, of somebody using the name Uncle Sam’s Money and giving this telephone number to call back,” Williams told me.