BBB Advises Tornado Victims to be on the Lookout for “Storm Chasers”



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In the wake of the tornadoes which affected an estimated 5,000 addresses in East Texas, our community continues to focus on rebuilding and healing. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors who take advantage of those who have already been victimized. BBB reminds homeowners to be on the lookout for storm chasers, individuals who follow severe weather hoping to get business from victims whose homes have been damaged by storms. 

“Our community continues to focus on recovering from this devastating situation.” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Nevertheless, there is no doubt we will see many East Texas residents get swindled by dishonest contractors and bogus charities.”

When looking for a contractor you can trust and when seeking to aid to relief efforts, BBB recommends that homeowners and donors do the following:

Do your homework.  Be proactive in selecting a business and not re-active to sales solicitations. Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. BBB has Business Profiles and consumer reviews on tens of thousands of contractors—good and bad—across the US.  Make sure the company has a good track record and has a history of responding to complaints if and when they receive them.

Recognize the red flags. Steer clear of any contractor who uses high pressure sales tactics or requires full payment upfront. Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials fro a job "down the street" or who do not have a permanent/local place of business. 

If one estimate seems much lower than the others and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors’ below-cost bids seem attractive, but these contracts often are uninsured and may charge substantial cancelation fees if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after insurance approval of the claim.

Never pay for work in full in advance. BB recommends a consumer never pay more than half before the contractor starts repairs and don’t pay the remaining balance until you are satisfied with the work. A good guideline is to pay by the rule of thirds: pay one-third deposit, one-third when the job is 50% complete, and one-third once the job is completed.

Make sure everything is in writing. Make sure that the full scope of the work is explained in the contract including cleanup and disposal of waste. All verbal agreements need to be included in the written agreement. Pay close attention to the payment terms, estimated price of materials and labor and any warranties or guarantees.
 

Find trustworthy charities when aiding to relief. BBB urges donors to make sure their donations will go to legitimate and reputable charities and relief efforts that have the capability to help those in need. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. Interested donors should visit bbb.org to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Victims of severe storm damage should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start with companies you can trust by going to www.bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373 or go to BBB ScamTracker.

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