BBB Advises Businesses and Homeowners to Beware of Itinerant Storm Chasers
This has been a good year for storm chasers – not people interested in unusual weather patterns, but instead, traveling contractors who hope to benefit from the wrath brought on by Mother Nature.
BBB warns consumers and businesses to be vigilant in doing their homework prior to buying goods or hiring services in any situation. Particularly when there has been a storm causing property damage, there is a sense of urgency to rush out, clean-up and put things back as they were. Stop! Treat this situation as you would any other one in which you are about to purchase goods or services in association with your home or business.
Be cautious of contractors or companies who enter town just to offer their services during a time of need. These individuals may be participating in fraudulent business practices and are only out to get your money. They can show up at your door or entice you with a fax or email offer.
An Omaha company recently hired a roofing company after receiving a fax offering roof repairs. They received the fax at the time that their roof was leaking. Unfortunately, the owner hired the scammers who were using a phony address in Omaha. They applied their “magic” liquid rubber to fix the leak for $2,500. It looked like a good deal until the next rain and the “magic” rubber turned to black soup and the roof still leaked! “When we tried to confirm the roofing company’s information they hung up on the BBB investigator,” stated Jim Hegarty BBB president and CEO. “Now, the phone number on the flyer no longer works and the company and the victim’s $2,500 are gone!”
Your BBB recommends that before you hire a home repair contractor, you first understand your rights and responsibilities. It is your responsibility to check with your insurer to verify coverage and deductibles and allow the insurer to inspect damages. You should also obtain several estimates from local, well-established contractors and be sure to check their record with the BBB.
Most insurance companies require that you get estimates and a “go ahead” before work begins. For example, the insurer may determine only part of the roof needs repair; however, if a contract between the homeowner and contractor is for replacement of the roof, the homeowner may be “stuck” with the balance of the bill.
BBB offers the following advice to avoid becoming a victim of high-pressure sales tactics:
- Never pay a company in full before work begins
- Get three bids before choosing a contractor
- Do not let a contractor "handle" your insurance claim. Complete your claim and collect payment from the insurance company before working with your chosen roofer to avoid insurance fraud and/or price gouging.
- Get background information on the company, including how long it has been in business and how long it’s operated in your area. If the company has a local phone number but not a local address, consider that a red flag
- Beware of warranties offered from companies based out-of-state (even if they have a temporary location in your area); question how services will be honored
- Does the company use its own workers or do they hire individual sub-contractors? It’s important to know who works on your roof and who is responsible if something goes wrong
- Are they licensed (if applicable by city and county)
Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and reports you can trust on local companies, visit bbb.org or call 402-391-7612 or 800-649-6814.