Better Business Bureau warns of possible storm scammers

The Better Business Bureau noted that storm chaser contractors will try to scam people even in a time of need.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) ​​is warning homeowners affected by the derecho that ripple through Ontario and Québec on May 21 of people known as ‘storm chasers’ and out-of-town contractors soliciting business.

“Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver,” said Jennifer Matthews, chief executive officer of BBB serving western Ontario. “Even after a natural disaster, there are some things you should do when hiring any contractor such as getting estimates, getting everything in writing, and paying with a credit card.”

The BBB noted red flags to watch out for:

  • They ask to be paid in cash only
  • They claim that they found major damage in hard-to-reach spots and not showing you pictures of the damage
  • They convey a sense of urgency
  • They tell you that they’ll cover the cost of your insurance deductibles
  • Their company vehicle is not local

“We are not trying to be alarmists and say that this will happen,” said Jessie St-Cyr, communications manager for BBB serving Canada’s northern capital regions and Québec. “Our goal is simply to share this information, so that people who had their property damaged by the storm, are able to recognize red flags if they are targeted. “

BBB tips for victims of natural disasters:

  • Contact your insurance company: Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy.
  • Do your research: Find businesses you can trust on BBB.org. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors. Get references from friends and relatives.
  • Resist high-pressure sales: Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or choose an unknown contractor.
  • Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors: Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if salespeople go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for your province’s business name, phone number, and license plates.
  • Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors: Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.

If a natural disaster victim suspects a scam or falls victim to one, they should report it on our tool BBB Scam Tracker.

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