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Avoiding contractor fraud following flood

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BATON ROUGE - There's been more than 1,000 calls to investigators concerning fraud from the flood.

As more homes dry out and homeowners prepare to repair their homes, contractors will be hired to rebuild.

State Attorney General Jeff Landry says the National Fraud Disaster Center is answering calls about fraud. Landry says when looking to hire someone, make sure you do your research.

"People get in a hurry," he said "They don't pause and think of exactly what they're doing."

Landry says this opens people up to vulnerabilities. The AG's office offers contractor tips to avoid fraud, which include hiring a licensed and insured contractor and getting everything in writing. Recommendations for hiring a contractor include getting at least three detailed bids for the same work. Ask for references of previous customers and do not agree to a large down payment, anything over 25 percent of the total price.

"'I can fix this for ten grand,' 'Oh, don't worry about the paperwork,' that's a huge red flag," said Landry.

The AG's office is also monitoring activity involving small transactions, people claiming they're providing a bogus service. Landry says his office saw this with mold certificates, which state and federal officials do not sell or provide.

News Two spoke with a contractor working on homes, who offered up his own suggestions to people looking to hire a contractor.

"You got to make sure the house is cleaned right and dried right," said K&S Construction owner Bruce Vu.

Wednesday, Vu was working on a home in the Baton Rouge neighborhood of Sherwood Forest, where many homes flooded. He says the residents are anxious to move back in.

"You can't do nothing yet," he said. "A lot of them want to move in right away. It takes time you can't rush this."

Vu says he gets most of his clientèle by word of mouth. He suggests hiring a local contractor and getting to know them and their business, before they're hired to work at your house for a long period of time. Vu also warns about prices and cheap work.

"Don't [hire them] just because it's cheap," he said. "You're going to get cheap stuff or sometimes they might not even do work."

To report fraud, call the consumer protection hotline at 1-800-351-4889 or file a consumer dispute here.

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