Buyer beware! There are lots of vendors and storm chasers in town after Hurricane Harvey (yes, even though it has been a few months). Not everyone is what they seem – from home repair contractors and pool cleaning services to phishing emails, there are opportunists out there looking to take advantage of you. Don’t trust just any vendor to take care of your pool.
After a natural disaster, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting scammed – so we put together this checklist to help you figure out the trustworthy, reputable contractors from the fakes.
Here’s how to spot the scams and stay safe.
You might be getting scammed if:
Your contractor asks for sensitive financial information via email or on the phone.
This is online safety 101. You should never give out your credit card or bank information through email or over the phone.
A reputable organization won’t ask for sensitive financial information in an email or over the phone.
If you get a call from someone claiming to be a contractor asking for your payment information and you’re unsure, hang up and look up the contractor online. If the number that called you doesn’t match the listed number online, you’re probably being scammed.
Call the listed number instead and ask about the call you received. Make sure you know who you’re talking to!
The contractor doesn’t have a license or proof of insurance.
Licensing works differently in every state. In Texas, a contractor is required to:
- have a contractor license through the State of Texas in order to do electrical work on ANY repairs to a swimming pool
- carry Texas Liability Insurance as proof of financial responsibility
- pass a test covering the National Electrical Code and other related information
- have a Federal Employer ID number
It is illegal to do electrical work (including repairs) on ANY part of a swimming pool without a State of Texas contractor license. Furthermore, lack of insurance is not only illegal but ends up hurting you in the end if something goes wrong. Any accident that occurs during work becomes your responsibility if they don’t have insurance. No one wants that financial burden and stress.
Always ask for PROOF of license and insurance. Do not just assume they have them. Any accident that occurs during work becomes your responsibility without insurance.
If your contractor does not have a license or insurance, find someone else!
Manning Pool Service is licensed and carries Texas Liability Insurance.
They ask you for up-front payment.
A good contractor won’t ask you for full payment before doing any work. Generally, these scammers collect your payment and disappear without doing any work. Don’t become a victim – if they ask for full payment before work begins, you should refuse and find someone else.
While an initial, smaller deposit isn’t necessarily a red flag, a good contractor will not ask for the total payment amount until work is done. A typical down payment is around 30% of the total cost of the project.
Finally, don’t pay the total cost until all work is completed and inspected to your satisfaction. A good contractor won’t pressure you to sign if the work wasn’t finished properly.
No one knows who they are or where they’re from.
With the Internet today, it’s easy to look up a contractor and see what people have been saying about them. Ask around the neighborhood, too, and see if people have any experience with them.
Ask someone you know and trust about the contractor in question. If they have used them in the past and have good things to say, it’s a good sign that the contractor is legitimate.
If you’re unable to find anyone who knows them, ask the contractor for 3 references. If he/she refuses, find someone else.
Furthermore, if they aren’t based in Houston, there’s a chance the warranty won’t be honored once the contractor goes back home. Be aware and careful!
They will only do work when you’re not home.
This is one of the top pool scams in the country. These scammers claim they did pool work while you were out and about, but in reality, they didn’t do any work.
Since most homeowners aren’t very knowledgeable about swimming pools, they end up paying the contractor for work that was never actually done.
If you’re concerned, make sure your pool contractor only comes by when you’re at home.
They want to charge you a fortune for a malfunctioning pump.
Pool pumps can stop working due to clogged filters. This is a pretty common occurrence and can be fixed easily – just clean Pool filter
Scammers will claim that the repair is more extensive than it actually is and try to charge you thousands of dollars. Don’t let them trick you.
A good contractor will be honest about repairs and won’t charge you a ridiculous amount to clean a clogged filter.
They won’t put anything in writing.
Even your estimate should be in writing. You should insist on a written contract, which includes:
- explanation of all tasks
- payment schedule
- a copy of the contract for you
The contract should clearly state who will apply and pay for required permits/licenses. Never sign a blank contract! All information should be filled in prior to signing.
Any other guarantees or promises you discuss should also be reproduced in writing.
They say they’re endorsed by FEMA.
Don’t be fooled by this scam!
Beware of the phrase “FEMA Certified.” This can signal a scam. FEMA does NOT certify or endorse any contractor.
Also, if a stranger just shows up at your door and claims your pool or home is unsafe, do not let them in. This is not how a good contractor conducts business.
This also applies to housing inspectors. Beware of anyone claiming to represent FEMA or the SBA. According to FEMA:
- A FEMA inspector will not ask for your 9-digit registration number. They should already have this number.
- A FEMA inspector does NOT require banking or other personal information.
- The job of FEMA housing inspectors is to verify damage. Inspectors do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They do not determine eligibility for assistance.
How to Report Contractor Fraud
Choose Manning Pool Service for Expert Pool Cleaning and Repair – You Can Trust Us in Your Backyard
As Houstonians, we understand the devastation and loss Hurricane Harvey caused, as we were impacted as well. We are #HoustonStrong and here to help our fellow Houstonians rebuild after this natural disaster. We are licensed and insured and are committed to providing you with exceptional service you can trust. Contact us today for a free quote!
Avoid Contractor Scams After Hurricane Harvey With This Checklist | Manning Pool Service – Houston, TX