BBB warns of ‘storm chasers’ looking to scam homeowners

By Cole Lauterbach
The Center Square

CHICAGO – Consumer advocates are warning Illinoisans to be on the lookout for unscrupulous contractors looking to take advantage of residents after the severe weather.

Steve Bernas, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said these contractors have the technology to find exactly where storm damage has occurred and will flock to those locations, hoping to get work before people can properly vet them.

“They can tell where the storms have happened and where they need to go to,” he said.

Some will get on top of a home, Bernas said, and make it worse so that it qualifies for more insurance coverage.

“You’ll hear them banging things and making more damage,” he said.

He said to always check out the contractor’s business reputation online before agreeing to have them do any work.

Other tips from the Better Business Bureau include:

  • Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on bbb.org.
  • Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.
  • Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Ask for identification.
  • Get at least three estimates. Get quotes in writing, don’t accept estimates over the phone, and be wary of very low estimates, which could set up a “bait and switch” tactic.
  • Don’t pay for the job in advance.
  • Get a written contract.
  • Be wary regarding places you can’t see. While most roofers abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.
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