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Better Business Bureau warns of snow plow scams

The Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is reminding people to do their homework before hiring a snow removal service.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It's that time of year when the temperature is cooler and we begin to think that winter is around the corner. 

It's also the time when people start looking for a snow plow operator to clean their driveways and sidewalks.

The Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is reminding people to do their homework before hiring a snow removal service.

They say that doing your homework will show any red flags.

The BBB offers these tips when looking for a snow removal provider:

Look for experience. Each home or business is different, and experience does matter. Check to see if everyone who works for the company you hire has relevant experience, not just the owner.

Ask about scheduling. With the ongoing labor shortage and the fact that some contractors snow plow as part-time jobs, this may affect availability. Always check to see if there is a schedule for snow removal.

Get more than one estimate. BBB recommends you get at least three estimates before deciding. Ask for all the costs upfront to avoid any surprises. Keep in mind the lowest price doesn’t always mean the best service.

Ask about insurance. Who is responsible for damage of your home or grounds during the winter season? Find out what type of insurance coverage potential contractors provide, as well as homeowner’s insurance. Does a municipality require the contractor to have a permit or license? Before you hire anyone, make some calls to find out and then check to make sure the contractor is appropriately covered. 

Review the contract.  Never settle for a verbal agreement. Providers should always give a written contract. A representative should come out to look at the property and make notes about services requested and potential obstacles. Get all of the details in writing and always read anything before you sign. Understand cancellation fees and any extra charges that may apply.  

Split the payments. Find out how the company expects payment. Most snow plow contracts take two forms: pay per plowing or pay per season. If you choose a pay-per-season contract in a light snow season, the contractor is not obligated to refund any money. If you’re expected to pay all fees upfront – consider it a red flag. .

Beware of scams. Remember even if a business appears to be reliable, it does not mean it is. When a company is reluctant to answer questions, won’t supply proper information, or is unwilling to offer references – there could be cause for concern.

The Better Business Bureau also reminds that with the ongoing labor shortage, you should double check your current contract to ensure you will have services this winter.

If you're still unsure about a company, the BBB provides background information, complaint history and resolutions in their reviews. If you spot a scam, you can report it here:  https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker