Better Business Bureau: Watch out for scams

By Tracy Bracy

Tax scams

Most of us know it's not a good idea to get on the Internal Revenue Service's bad side, so a call from someone claiming to be an IRS agent would have to be rather scary.

Victims of the scam are being told they owe the IRS money, which must be paid immediately through a preloaded debit card or via wire transfer. The scammers threaten the victim with arrest, loss of a business or driver's license or deportation if they refuse to cooperate.

The Better Business Bureaus's advice: Never wire money without making sure you're dealing with a real IRS representative.

If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly and speak with a customer representative first.

Home improvements

Instead of choosing to buy a new home, many people choose to remodel or upgrade their current home.

Most home-improvement projects take time and money. More importantly, they require skilled, reputable contractors who can bring your dreams to life.

The bureau nationally received close to 5,000 complaints against the home improvement industry last year.

Most complaints said contracted work was not done properly, or final costs were more than what was quoted. Others claimed repair or billing issues.

Before selecting a remodeling contractor, you should carefully plan your project from start to finish.

When in search of a reputable contractor, do your research on BBB.org, get multiple bids and check licenses.

Hail repair

As spring rolls in, so does the chance of storms. The National Weather Service estimates hail causes roughly $1 billion in damages each year. Hail can severely damage the roof and siding of homes and businesses, as well as shatter windshields, side view mirrors, headlights and leave noticeable damage to the body of a vehicle.

The bureau encourages consumers to protect themselves and their property. It's important to find out if you are covered for hail damage. If you experience hail damage, an insurance adjuster will need to survey your hail damage, and you will be in need of a reputable company to make repairs. Do your research first by visiting checkbbb.org.

Rental Red Flags

Are you in the market for a new place to live? There could be a hidden scammer behind a bargain-priced lease.

The bureau warns that if you spot an online classified ad for well below the going rate, it may be a rental scam.

Renters should be aware of red flags to look out for. Be sure to find out how comparable listings are priced, and if the rental comes in suspiciously low, walk away. If a landlord is located elsewhere and prefers to communicate via email, that's a red flag.

Scammers might say they have just been relocated out of the country; don't believe it. If they're asking for a substantial deposit or wire transfer, be cautious. Don't pay any money before inspecting the home inside and out.

Tracy Bracy is the regional director of the Better Business Bureau for Corpus Christi/Victoria. Contact her by email at info@corpuschristi.bbb.org.