LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – As bitter cold sets in, people have hopefully taken steps to protect those pipes and are letting water drip from the faucet. But no matter the steps they take, sometimes luck is not on their side.

Unfortunately, someone is always out there looking to gain a buck, even if that means ripping consumers off when their luck is down.

Here are some tips if you have to call a contractor during or after the freezing temperatures:

  • As soon as you possibly can, take pictures of the damage
  • If you’re forced to call a contractor to make repairs, start with asking your friends or family for a reputable contractor
  • The FOX 16 News investigators recommend you do your own investigation — look the contractor up on the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board. You can verify they’re legit or if they’ve had complaints filed against them.
  • Get a few different estimates and check with at least three references from the contractor
  • Don’t forget the contract and make it as detailed as possible
  • Avoid paying for the entire job upfront
  • The State recommends paying one-third in advance, one-third paid halfway through the job and one-third paid when it’s completed
  • Never make the final payment until you’ve had an opportunity to inspect the work
  • A reputable contractor will never try to pressure you to obtain your business
  • Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing

For more tips to protect your money, visit the Arkansas attorney general’s website, where they have a specific section for tips for disaster victims.

There may be isolated power outages, so it is also a good idea to make sure your phone stays charged in case you need to reach out for help.

Don’t forget, if you fall victim to a con artist or someone isn’t playing by the rules, call the Working4You hotline at 501-340-4448.