Orange County is recommending that all residents be aware of scams involving unlicensed contractors for home repairs – both in the wake of Hurricane Matthew and in anticipation of the upcoming holidays.

In a release issued Monday, Orange County Consumer Fraud supervisor Carlos Morales said not paying close attention to who you’re hiring can cause more headaches in the long run.

“Homeowners around the nation face the same risks when searching for someone to do repair work or remodeling on their homes,” the release reads. “Unsuspecting consumers can be easy prey for unlicensed contractors whose bids almost inevitably will be much lower than bids from licensed contractors. The strong appeal of saving money can be overwhelming, but buyers must beware. The cheapest contractor available may be the one who will cost the most in the long run.”

Unlicensed contractors, while they may be cheaper at first, attain that cheaper price through cutting corners, Morales said – they don’t have to pay licensing fees and often don’t provide their workers with compensation or liability insurance.

“If you hire an unlicensed contractor and he falls off a ladder while doing work at your house, you’re liable,” added Morales. “An unlicensed contractor will also try to cut corners on the work because they don’t have to adhere to building codes, so if a hurricane hits, or even a severe thunderstorm, your house may not hold up to Florida weather conditions.”

While many such contractors are just lazy, Morales said some of them may be active criminals looking to prey upon unsuspecting or unknowing homeowners by taking money without doing the work or even stealing property.

Morales said the signs to look for when hiring a contractor include avoiding door-to-door solicitors, insisting on references, a proper license, bonding and insurance, checking a contractor’s credentials, making sure any contract can be broken if you don’t receive financing and hiring a contractor with a real office and not just a post office box address.

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