GOWANDA - While the Office of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has already made several area stops to inform residents of home contractor fraud, it likely has not stopped in such a prime target for dubious practices as Gowanda currently stands.
With so many homes damaged by flooding and assistance forms and figures flying about, it could be potentially easy to take advantage of homeowners - and some may have already started trying.
At a Wednesday public meeting with Cuomo's office in Gowanda, Mayor Richard Klancer and Gowanda Police Officer Jen Alessi mentioned some reasons that have arisen to question the intents of some who have arrived in the village for contracting services, including falsely affiliating themselves with the village government.
"If anybody says they have a contract that's been signed by the village - by Dick Klancer, personally, because that was brought up - we have no contracts with anybody at this point in time," Klancer said.
Contractors must, however, be recognized by the village to conduct work there and must show proof of these credentials.
"Any of the contractors have to register in the municipality that they're working in, so if they're in the village of Gowanda they have to be registered here and they have to have a permit you can see," Alessi said. "Some of them post it on their windshield, but they also have to produce it if you ask them for it."
Letizia Tagliafierro, special counsel for the Attorney General's Buffalo Regional Office, told attendees to be wary of door-to-door or phone solicitations and to ensure that all parts of a project are laid out in a written contract. Potential clients should also be careful of contractors who ask for the full price of a project up front.
If there is reason to doubt someone who approaches your property claiming to be a contractor, Alessi said, local law enforcement is available to help.
"If you have somebody come to your door, dial 9-1-1 and I can tell you, if they're legit, they're going to hang out," Alessi said. "And if they're not, they're going to be gone. And we certainly have enough officers to come to your home and check it out. I got a call yesterday; we'll send a car over."
For those who think they may have been taken by a contracting scam, Tagliafierro said the Attorney General's office can offer to help. A complaint can be filed with the office by calling 1-800-771-7755 or online by going to www.nyknowyourcontractor.com.
The best defense against a scam, however, may be knowing about the contractor beforehand. Not only can the Web site www.nyknowyourcontractor.com help with research as well, but Tagliafierro also suggests taking references from friends and family and contacting the Better Business Bureau as resources.
The Attorney General's Office will be available during a public forum in Silver Creek Thursday at 7 p.m. inside the Silver Creek High School Auditorium.