'Storm chaser' contractors look to scam storm victims - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

'Storm chaser' contractors look to scam storm victims

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Suspected scammers normally operate door to door offering their services for home repair and tree removal. Suspected scammers normally operate door to door offering their services for home repair and tree removal.
BRANDON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

People affected by nature's unpredictable weather can become victimized a second time by fraudulent contractors if they're not looking for warning signs.

From extreme flooding in the Metro area to destructive tornados like the one that demolished hundreds of homes in Forrest and Lamar Counties, victims of these natural disasters need to be aware of scammers.

CEO of The Better Business Bureau, John O'Hara, said contractors prey on storm victims.

"Sometimes when people are wanting relief right away and people are there, they tend to want to make an impulse decision," describes O'Hara.

Suspected scammers normally operate door to door offering their services for home repair and tree removal.

"Anytime we have storms, tornados and there's cleanup, you will see what we call 'storm chasers'. People that look for this situation and take advantage of victims," warns O'Hara.

O'Hara said to avoid becoming a victim all you have to do is make an easy phone call.

"Check with us at the Better Business Bureau to see if we have a rating on [the contractor] or to see what kind of complaints they have," advises the CEO.

Look for the red flags when you're approached by contractors wanting to help you rebuild or repair. If contractors are not willing to accept a check, or said the check must be made out to the individual instead of the contracting company, you may headed in a dangerous direction.

O'Hara adds, "Don't become a victim twice. Take your time and think it out. Make sure you are hiring a licensed contractor."

Other warning signs of scammer from the BBB include:

  • Beware of door-to-door salesmen making unsolicited contacts.
  • Get straight answers to your questions.
  • Be wary if the contractor won't accept a check or wants the check made out to him instead of his company.
  • Deal with local businesses rather than those who come through town.
  • Don't be pushed into quick decisions.
  • Ask for references - not from his favorites, but from his last three customers.
  • Verify licenses and insurance coverage directly with the agencies; don't take copies at face value.
  • Contact BBB to check on the company's reliability and complaint history.
  • Get everything in writing and read it carefully; never sign contracts with blank spaces.
  • Check funding sources rather than just accepting financing arrangements offered by the contractor.
  • Don't pay too much up-front (usually not more than 1/3) and never pay the entire balance until the job is completed satisfactorily.

If you feel you have been approached by 'storm chasers' looking to take advantage of flood or storm victims, contact the Better Business Bureau online or by calling 800-987-8280.

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