Government and home improvement scams increase during pandemic

Published: May. 12, 2020 at 5:23 AM EDT
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With temperatures warming up for the summer and more people staying home because of the coronavirus pandemic, it's important you do your research before hiring anyone to do a home renovation project.

"This is always a big time of year, but I think this year, even more so because we are so much more aware of our surroundings," Julie Wheeler, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Western Virginia, said. "We're seeing very, very busy times for contractors and home improvement folks."

In years past, the Better Business Bureau has warned people of scammers knocking on your door offering to do a job for you.

"Driveway sealing or paving, cleaning your gutters," Wheeler said. "Some of them will say they see damage on your roof and they want to get up there because they can manage to get you a free roof from your insurance company."

This year, they don't anticipate too many door-to-door scammers, but say you still need to be vigilant when hiring a contractor.

"You want to make sure you have something in writing telling exactly what the contractor is going to do, the type of material they're going to use, the time frame in which they're going to do it, as well as how much it's going to cost you, and over what terms are you going to pay that," she explained.

It's also important to get several quotes from at least three different companies.

"When you get those competitive quotes, you have the ability to compare how different contractors would do it, what they're recommending as far as different materials and what those cost differences are," Wheeler said.

Many people are using their stimulus checks to get those extra projects done around the house. However, many others are still waiting for their government relief funds to come in. Unfortunately, there are scammers out there lying about what you need to do to get it.

claiming your student loans qualify you for more COVID-19 relief, text messages that ask you to enter your social security number to see if you qualify for a grant from a non-profit, and even Facebook messages that say you can find out when your check will arrive in your account by submitting your social security number or making a payment.

"One of the other things we saw that was actually targeting social security recipients was more text massages and even emails telling them that they had to take a COVID-19 test before they could receive their stimulus check," Wheeler said.

The most important thing to note is that the government will not contact you over the phone, through Facebook or with a text message.

"If you receive anything like that, anything other an an official letter from a government agency, you can pretty much assume it is not valid," she explained.

Unfortunately, it's not just individuals who are being targeted, but local and small businesses too.

"We have had some that have said they've gotten, 'click here' to apply for payroll protection program or the EIDL loan," Wheeler said. "And typically those are not going to come in via a 'click a link to do this.' You're going to have to go to the site or go to your lender."

However you get targeted, scammers are trying to get you to make an emotional decision to buy into what they're selling.

"It plays on people's fears and their concern because they want to make sure they do everything possible to get their funds, but think a little bit, 'does that make sense?'" Wheeler cautioned.

If you ever do receive any kind of scam, even if you don't fall for it, it's still a good idea to report it to your local

. This helps them keep track of scams that are happening in our area and they can get the word out to other people to be on the lookout for those types of scams.

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