Protect yourself from “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors asking for business

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana (WAFB) – Natural disasters like storms, floods and hurricanes like Ida often bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Entrepreneurs take advantage of those who have already been victimized.

Better Business Bureau is warning homeowners affected by natural disasters to be wary of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors asking for business. While not all storm chasers are crooks, they may not have a license for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t keep.

“Consumers need to make sure they perform the same verification on these storm chasers as they would with any other business locally,” said Carmen Million, President and CEO of South Central Better Business. Office. “First of all, let me say that we recommend that you try to do business locally. It is important. However, that being said, we also know that many of these local entrepreneurs are extremely busy. “

When you hire a contractor, you need to get three quotes, put everything in writing, pay with a credit card, and never pay the full amount until all the work is done.

BBB also has these specific tips for victims of natural disasters: contact your insurance company, inquire about your policy coverage and specific deposit requirements. You can keep all receipts, including those for food, temporary accommodation, or other expenses that may be covered by your policy.

Your insurance company may have recommended contractors as well, so you should do your research and find companies you can trust here. You should also check the government agency in your state or province responsible for registering and / or licensing contractors and get referrals from friends and relatives.

Resist high pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as a “bargain” which you will only get if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and don’t react to phone or door-to-door sales calls. Victims of disasters should never feel pressured into making a hasty decision or choosing an unfamiliar entrepreneur.

Be especially careful with door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a canvassing permit if vendors are door-to-door. Ask for an identity document. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for your state or province.

Do not hand over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay it directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection compared to other payment methods). Do not sign any document that gives the contractor rights to your insurance claims. If you have any questions, contact your insurance company or agent.

Beware of places you cannot see. Although most contractors follow the law, be careful allowing someone you don’t know to inspect your roof and other areas of your home. An unethical entrepreneur can actually create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts and other places that you cannot easily access or see on your own.

BBB is also warning contractors to beware of storm chasers who offer to pay substantial sums to local construction companies to use the company’s established name, reputation and phone. They masquerade as a local business, collect the insurance money and then move on, leaving the real business to deal with unhappy customers due to poor execution, unfinished work, or unfulfilled warranties. .

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