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Do detective work when hiring for repairs and construction

With the influx of contractors and construction crews coming to Joplin officials are renewing their warnings about the potential for fraud.

A civil fraud lawsuit filed in Oklahoma names a company that is now licensed to do business in Joplin and Tulsa attorney Steve Capron says residents need to be cautious about verifying a contractor’s credentials.

The company Capron is suing – Precision Contracting and Roofing - provided false information to the city of Joplin about their certificate of liability insurance.  A check of the insurance company showed neither the agency nor the agent exists at the address listed.

If a contractor has a history of legal problems the only way a resident will know is if they do their own detective work and background check.

“We’re here strictly to license businesses,” says Leslie Jones, Director of the Joplin Finance Department.  “We don’t take a stance on whether they’re a good business or considered a bad business to a certain person.”

The finance department licenses contractors from everywhere but some of the information submitted to the city is not verified.

“We can tell them if there have been any complaints on that contractor,” says Jones.  “We obviously have more of a history on contractors that have been here for a while rather than the contractors that have come into town due as a result of the disaster.”

The city of Joplin says it does not conduct criminal background checks on contractors or their employees.

Officials say if you have work to be done on your home you should do a background check on the company yourself.  Ask to see the company’s license, bond, insurance and ask for references.

“When they do a bad job or just take the money and run – that’s why you need all the references, all the background checks you can do and talk to your neighbors – see who they’ve used,” says Trevor Keller, Operations Manager for Volks Avanti Insurance Agency.

Keller says companies like Volks Avanti deals with bonding and insuring contractors, but a deep background check is never done.

“We may ask them a little bit more questions and find out more about their experience,” says Keller.  “We want to find out if they’re local or coming in from out of state and just starting up a little business so they can try to benefit from the tornado victims.”

Keller says insurance companies look at a company’s loss history anywhere from three to five years before issuing a bond or insurance.  He says his company only insures local contractors.

Experts also say homeowner’s should dig deeper and search public records in the companies home state.


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