After Storms, Beware of ‘Storm Chaser’ Scammers

After Storms, Beware of ‘Storm Chaser’ Scammers

AFTER THEIR property suffers storm damage, homeowners need to be on the lookout w as dishonest contractors and fake charities swoop in.

In a scene that’s becoming increasingly common after a catastrophe, unscrupulous “storm chasers” are targeting people whose homes and premises have been damaged after a calamity, such as the recent storms in California.

Unfortunately, bad actors target homeowners and small business operators when they are at their most vulnerable and you should be wary of anyone who shows up at your door or place of business immediately after a storm. If someone pitches up offering to step in and handle repairs and your insurance, you should not take them up on their offer.

After a storm, you should immediately call your insurance company to file your claim and allow them to arrange for re pairs. Or if they ask you to find a contractor, you’ll have to make sure to do your research and verify credentials before signing any contracts or agreeing to any services.

The worst you can do is to agree to repairs without first consulting your insurer, as these scammers will often try to get you to pay for some of the work up front and tell you they’ll cover your insurance deductible. Don’t believe them.

Most home insurance companies can suggest contractors who can get the job done. Using a referred contractor from your insurer can give you peace of mind, because they screen the contractor for you.

You are always free to get second opinions and negotiate with your adjuster. When you choose a contractor the insurance company selects, it can protect you. If you get your own contractor, you should look for some basic things to help decide whether they are reputable and can do the job (see box on left).

Avoiding the scam

  • Steer clear of any contractor who asks for full payment upfront, only accepts payment in cash, or refuses to provide you with a written contract.
  • Avoid door-to-door offers for home repair work. Instead, ask friends and neighbors for referrals.
  • Be skeptical of any contractor that offers to pay your insurance deductible or offers other no-cost incentives, as these can be signs of a scam. Call your insurance company before agreeing to any storm-related repairs or inspections.
  • Ask contractors for references and call each one.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the contractor.
  • In California, contractors, electricians, plumbers, and heating and air conditioning repair people must be licensed. Check their license.
  • Legitimate contractors should be able to provide a business license; proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance; written manufacturer warranties and written labor warranties.

Source: Texas Deptartment of Insurance

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