Cedar Rapids Police warn of possible gypsy scam - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids Police warn of possible gypsy scam

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

The Cedar Rapids Police Department says a group of traveling gypsies is in the Cedar Rapids area.

They warn people living in Linn County and surrounding areas to be alert for anybody asking to do work on your property or on your buildings.  If you do have contact with such individuals, always ask for photo identification, business licensing, and peddler licensing.

It is recommended that you get a written estimate on any proposed work before it begins, and you get more than one estimate so you are certain the price quoted is fair and accurate.

Anyone that has contact with unlicensed persons is asked to call the Police Department Crime Analysis Unit at 286-5368 and provide license plate numbers, vehicle descriptions, and if at all possible any names provided.

The State Attorney General issued the following tips in their April 2009 Consumer Advisory:

- Watch for scams at your doorstep, where someone shows up and says your driveway needs repaving, or your house needs new shingles – and they "just happen to have materials left over" at a big discount! Just say no to anyone demanding an immediate decision, or someone who only accepts cash.

- Check out and interview contractors before you sign a contract or pay any money. Request and contact local references. Check on complaints with the Attorney General's Office (515-281-5926, or 888-777-4590) and check with the Better Business Bureau. Check to see if a contractor has been sued by unsatisfied customers (or sued them) -- go to www.iowacourts.state.ia.us. Check on a contractor's registration and bonding (which doesn't guarantee quality of work) at www.iowaworkforce.org/labor. Ask for a copy of the contractor's liability insurance certificate. Be wary of a person or company not listed in the local telephone directory.

- Get several written estimates, choose the best, and get a contract in writing (and don't forget to read it!) Before work begins, agree on a written contract detailing the work to be done, the brand and/or the specifications of the materials to be used, the price, who's responsible for permits, that all change orders must be in writing, and other terms. Put start and completion dates in writing, and remedies if the contractor fails to meet them. (Example: the contract could be nullified if the contractor doesn't start on time.) If you're filing an insurance claim to cover the costs of damages, negotiate the details with your insurance company directly and not through a contractor. It's usually safer and a better deal to obtain financing through your local bank or credit union, rather than a contractor. If you sign a contract somewhere other than the contractor's regular place of business, such as at your home, you have three business days to cancel the contract without penalty.

- Avoid paying large sums or the entire job up-front. If you need to make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to the supplier and the contractor. Insist on a "mechanic's lien waiver" in case the contractor fails to pay others for materials or labor.

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