BBB Warns Against Storm Chaser Scams

April 29, 2011 Updated Apr 29, 2011 at 3:45 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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BBB Warns Against Storm Chaser Scams

April 29, 2011 Updated Apr 29, 2011 at 3:45 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY –( release) When high wind storms blew through Upstate New York, it left a trail of downed trees, flooding, power outages, property damage and in some cases severe damage. While our area was spared the devastation seen in the South, storm chasers are lurking. Natural disasters are a calling card for scammers posing as professionals offering help in the clean up. The Better Business Bureau warns homeowners to be on the look out for imposters and to use extreme caution if you need to hire home repair contractors.

“If you got hit with storm damage, you don’t need to be hit by a scam artist too,” said David Polino, Better Business Bureau President. “General contracting is the highest complaint area for the BBB. Over 40,000 complaints were filed last year. Too often consumers find out after the fact that they hired an F rated business, or a fly-by-night operation, leaving them high and dry.” The BBB advises homeowners to research first and to hire someone they can confidently trust.

The BBB offers the following tips to homeowners who suffered property damage:
Check with 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.
Stay calm. Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
Shop around. Ask your family and friends for references. Contact the BBB for a report on the business and for major repairs; get three competitive bids and references that are at least a year-old.
Stay clear of door-to-door offers. Workers that come knocking with claims of left-over repair materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business should raise a red flag. If workers show up claiming that your home is unsafe, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it if you’re concerned about structural damage.
Put it in writing. Written contract agreements are always best. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor.
Do not use cash. Never pay for repairs in advance, and do not pay cash. Checks and credit cards offer you protection should something go wrong. Once your cash is gone, it’s gone.
Request a Quote. You can get your job started with the BBB’s Request-a-Quote program. It’s a free program offered to consumers looking for options. Available on-line at bbb.org, consumers complete a simple 1,2,3 step process, and receive bids from qualified BBB Accredited Businesses within a few days.
Storm victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. When in doubt, contact the Better Business Bureau.
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About BBB
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau (BBB), is an unbiased not-for-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 65 million consumers rely on BBB Reliability Reports® and charity BBB Wise Giving Reports®, to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities. BBB provides objective advice and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit bbb.org for more information about BBB.