Better Business Bureau wants you to beware of ‘storm chaser’ scams

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The following is a news release from the Better Business Bureau.

Better Business Bureau is warning homeowners affected by natural disasters to beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting businesses. Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver.

BBB also has these specific tips for people:

Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.

Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on BBB.org. We have BBB Business Profiles on more than a million home contractors. Check your state or provincial government agency responsible for registering and/or licensing contractors. Get references from friends and relatives.

Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.

Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for your state or province.

Be wary regarding places you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.

If a sales representative comes to your door, your BBB advises the following:

  • Know who you are buying from. Before you open your door or let anyone into your home, ask to see a photo ID, business card and some proof of the business they’re representing. Also, ask for a physical address and for local references.
  • Do your research. Look up the business online and get references from your friends, family, neighbors or from the company’s current clients. For a business you can trust, go to bbb.org.
  • Resist pressure to “buy now.” Don’t be pressured to take advantage of a time-sensitive offer, like “once in a lifetime” or “today only.” Instead, do some comparison shopping and take time to decide whether you want the product being sold.
  • Get written estimates. A reputable business won’t try to sell you anything before completing a professional assessment of your needs and layout of your home. Ask plenty of questions. Remember, don’t let anyone who hasn’t made an appointment into your home. If an estimation or installation needs to be done, call the business directly to make an appointment.
  • Know your rights. Keep your receipt or contract and a copy of your cancellation notice. Remember, you are not obligated to return goods to the seller until you have recovered either your money or your agreement to pay money.

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