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Don't Be Scammed In Storm Cleanup

PHOTO: Thousands of homeowners are cleaning up after powerful storms ripped through the state earlier this week, but experts warn against rushing into repairs that sound too good to be true. Photo courtesy of Mona Shand.
PHOTO: Thousands of homeowners are cleaning up after powerful storms ripped through the state earlier this week, but experts warn against rushing into repairs that sound too good to be true. Photo courtesy of Mona Shand.
November 19, 2013

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - The massive storm system that moved across their state Sunday and Monday has left many Michiganders dealing with damage and destruction to their property. Although the rush is on to make repairs, experts say it's critical to take the time to avoid being scammed. Natural disasters can bring out the best in people, with neighbors helping one another, but they also can bring out the worst in the form of fraud artists preying on the vulnerable.

According to Melanie Duquesnel, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan, this is the time when "storm chasers" often show up in the hardest-hit areas, offering tree removal, roof repair, or other services, and demanding to be paid up front ... and then they take the money and run.

"People wanting to live in their house and protect their valuables are like, 'Yeah, sure,' but the difficulty is that they've actually put the cart before the horse," she warned.

The Better Business Bureau says the first step for homeowners with storm damage should always be to contact their insurance companies and find out what steps their policies require. Consumers can research contractors and companies offering repair services on the Better Business Bureau's website, BBB.org.

Duquesnel stresses that the details of any repair services should be made clear in writing, and that homeowners should pause to make sure they know exactly what they are getting into.

"A lot of salespeople will like you to just scan it and sign," she cautioned. "Take an evening, another day, to go through all the detail of that contract to make sure that you're comfortable with that."

The storm knocked out power to more than a half-million people across the state, and in some of the hardest-hit areas, utility companies say, it could be Friday or Saturday before all service is restored.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI