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Scam Alert

Beware of Cold-Weather Scams

Winter service cons often begin with bargain prices

  • Snow removal. You may have issues with the quality of work by the neighbor's kid, but that preteen entrepreneur usually doesn't collect until the job is done. And that helps avoid the most common snow-related scam: paying in advance, only to learn — after a snowfall — that the company has disappeared or doesn't deliver on its promises.

    What to know: A seasonal snow removal contract makes sense for many homeowners, but try to negotiate to pay after the work is complete or month by month. And before agreeing to any seasonal arrangement, do your homework: Many snow removal services are sidelines for construction or other contractors, so check their reps with the BBB and your state's contractor licensing board or similar agency to avoid companies that have unresolved complaints.

    Contracts should specify, in writing, at least the following: The beginning and ending dates for snow removal services, details of a back-up plan should a plow truck break down or be otherwise occupied, how the company will handle any lawn damage that its cleanup causes, and penalties for failing to remove snow as promised — as well as the provider's proof of insurance and license numbers.

You may also like: Learn how to get free ID theft protection.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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