BUFFALO, N.Y. -- With the season's first widespread snow on the way this weekend, the Better Business Bureau is warning Western New Yorkers about scammers working in the private plowing business.

"There's always issues that arrive during snow plow season," said Melanie McGovern with the Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York.

The vast majority of private plowing contractors are honest businesspeople who work hard jobs. But the snow plowing industry is a prime target for scammers, according to experts.

Last winter, the local BBB worked to resolve 128 complaints from consumers about snow removal contractors.

In early 2016, 2 On Your Side profiled dozens and dozens of people who paid a single contractor for snow plowing services and never got their money's worth. That case ended in jail time.

McGovern offers the following tips to consumers to avoid falling victim to a snow plowing scam:

  • Get your contract in writing, and read the fine print
  • Pay with a check, not cash
  • Meet your contractor in person at your home; don't rely solely on a phone conversation
  • Ask for references so you can examine the contractor's reputation
  • Split your payments (perhaps half up front, half midway through the season)
  • Check for licensing in municipalities that require it
  • Make sure the contractor has an address on the contract and not just a phone number
  • Check BBB.org to see past complaints, letter grade, etc.
  • Report any scams to the Better Business Bureau, local police and the New York State Attorney General's Office