Better Business Bureau: Upgrade your home
Instead of choosing to buy a new home, many people prefer to remodel or upgrade their current one.
Most home improvement projects take time and money. More importantly, they require skilled, reputable contractors who can bring your dreams to life. The Better Business Bureau encourages homeowners to do their research before hiring anyone. The bureau offers a website to help homeowners find an accredited contractor at checkbbb.org. For any business, go to BBB.org to check the company's Better Business Bureau Business Review for a history of complaints.
Once you have a list of contractors to contact, it's time to ask the hard questions:
What are my payment options?
Don't pay large fees up front or pay in cash. It's best to solicit bids from at least three different companies. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and materials to be used. Depending on the nature of work, you may wish to specify the kinds (grade or thickness) of materials that will be used because this could affect the bid.
Will my project require a permit?
Some building projects may require permits, even for simple jobs like decks. Additions or alterations to your home may affect title transfers or insurance requirements should you ever decide to sell your home. Therefore, be cautious of contractors who state no permits or inspections are required. All contractors are required to obtain permits for their work.
Also consider checking licensing, insurance, project history and recommendations.
Here's what to do about the Heartbleed bug:
The latest mega bug is putting personal information at risk.
The bureau warns the public to safeguard private information against the Heartbleed security threat.
The Heartbleed bug is a computer security vulnerability that can reveal the contents of a server's memory and expose private data such as usernames, passwords and even credit card information.
The Heartbleed bug exploits a flaw in the Secure Sockets Layer of popular open source software called OpenSSL. It is used to secure numerous kinds of data transfers, including email, instant messaging, social media and business transactions.
To protect your identity:
Secure your accounts. Ask for protection beyond passwords. Many account providers now offer additional ways for you to verify who you are before you conduct business on that site.
Make passwords long and strong. Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.
Unique account, unique password. Separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals.
Write it down and keep it safe. Everyone can forget a password.
Keep a list that's stored in a safe, secure place away from your computer.
Own your online presence.
When available, set the privacy and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing. It's OK to limit how and with whom you share information.
Tracy Bracy is the regional director of the Better Business Bureau for Corpus Christi/Victoria. Contact her by e-mail at email@example.com.