Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 19, 2004

‘Go with who you know,’ the local cure for scams

By Lynda Jensen

As the weather gets warmer, Gary Streich of Howard Lake is wondering how many fly-by-night roofing contractors might visit the area this season.

The contractors will do the job, “and then you’ll never see them again,” Streich said.

He owns Streich Construction of Howard Lake, and he’s familiar enough with the problem.

In the roofing business, it is expensive to become bonded and licensed, which is part of the reason that some contractors avoid doing so. Residential roofing carries one of the highest worker’s compensation rates in the industry, which drives up the cost of insurance as well.

“You should ask for a contractors’ license,” agreed Ken Durdahl, who operates Durdahl Construction in Howard Lake.

In fact, it is not unusual for local residents to find an unknown contractor at their door, particularly after a storm, asking about work that is well below the usual cost.

“Where are they next year?” Streich asked. “They’re long gone.”

Durdahl noted that local businesses are around long after the sale.

“We have to stand behind our products,” Durdahl said. “Otherwise you won’t work much.”

“After the fact, who’s going to take care of (the customer)?” Durdahl asked.

“Ask for references,” Streich said. Residents should check that contractors are bonded and insured, he added.

The local cure

Many local businesses will point out the common cure for scam artists – and that is the timeworn saying “Go with who you know.”

For example, many people purchase lawn mowers and other items from Joe’s Sport Shop because they know that he services what he sells.

“A lot of people will buy cheaper, and then have a problem,” owner Joe Drusch commented.

“We take everything, but we give the quickest service to our own customers,” he added.

Knowing who is on the phone

The local familiarity with customers also extends to a very different kind of problem – identity theft.

Although identity theft depends a great deal on the vigilance of the patron, local banks who are familiar with their customers find it easier to spot problems.

In fact, Citizens State Bank of Waverly was instrumental in discovering an identity theft case for one of its customers in the recent past, commented Kent Houston of the bank.

The patron spent a great deal of time and money restoring her credit and good name, Houston said.

The “Go with who you know,” idea also applies to callers on the telephone, such as scam artists who call looking for personal information and account numbers, which is often how identity theft scam artists collect information.

Houston warned people to be careful about volunteering information to unsolicited callers.

“Make sure you know who you are dealing with,” Houston said. “If you have a question, find out,” he said.

Local businesses do not usually call looking for this type of information because they know who you are in the first place – and if they don’t, the patron knows who the caller is.

Another example of this is Security State Bank in Howard Lake, which has a notice for its customers that it will not solicit account information by e-mail, since e-mail is not safe to transmit this confidential data.

Houston also pointed out another aspect of local patronage is related to support of the community, which is a priority at Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank is well known for its long standing support of the Waverly and Montrose communities.

“We live here, too,” Houston said. “We’re part of this community.”

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