BBB: Beware of lightning rod repair scam

The Rockford Office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Chicago and Northern Illinois is issuing an alert to area residents warning about a crew working in southwest Rockford offering to make lightning rod repairs and appears to be targeting senior citizens.

A representative of AMCORE Bank’s Fraud Prevention Department contacted the BBB inquiring about the legitimacy of a company known as Modern Lightning Protection Systems, a company that repairs lightning rods.

Fraud Prevention was alerted by a personal banker that one of their customers, a senior citizen, had written a check for $1,500 to the business to repair his lightning rods. Because of the swift action by the personal banker, a stop payment was placed on the check.

According to the Fraud Department spokesman, the handwritten receipt given to their customer listed the business as being at 517 Walnut in Harvard, Ill. Also, the receipt had no phone number, and the only other information on it was a nearly illegible signature of a person named Joe.

Dennis Horton, director of the BBB’s local office, says: “We found nothing in our database on the business, and a check with the Chamber of Commerce in Harvard also produced nothing. According to the Chamber’s interim director, the address appeared to be phony.” BBB staff contacted the Harvard Police Department, who confirmed that the 517 Walnut address was indeed fake.

BBB staff also did an Internet search on the business name, which turned up Modern Lightning Protection in Greenville, N.C., which has been in business for more than 40 years. A spokesman for the business told Horton that “they do business in five states in the Southeast, but not Illinois.” Referring to the crew as gypsies, she also said, “They and another company, Robins Lightning Protection, receive a number of calls each year because of these scams.” She said their name, and that of Robins, is used because they are legitimate and have been in business for many years.

The BBB warns that homeowners should:

1) Be very careful before contracting for any repairs.

2) Do research—contact the BBB before you hire a contractor and avoid businesses and individuals who come to your door with a good deal.

3) Never give in to demands for excessively large down payments. And don’t make full payment until all the work is done to your satisfaction.

4) Work with local contractors who have a verifiable track record.

5) Ask to see any required state or local permits or licenses as well as proof of insurance.

from the Oct. 3, 2007, issue

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