Storm chasers prey on unsuspecting homeowners in times of chaos

Tornado Insurance Damage CostsSenate Bill 101 passed by an almost unanimous vote, sending the consumer protection law on to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. The bill was created to protect homeowners from being ripped off by scamming contractors and home repair workers.

Unfortunately, in times of disaster, some people will see it as a money making opportunity. They know that typically, after an area is hit by a natural disaster, state and government funds are poured into that region to help aid and recovery efforts.

The officials call these unethical people “storm-chasers”. This is because they usually go to wherever the latest flood, tornado, hurricane, etc. has just happened at, and take advantage of the chaos, and people’s vulnerability. This can happen in any state. It isn’t isolated to one specific area.

These scam artists’s show up after a big disaster such as the severe weather that just hit the southeastern part of the states. They usually go around door to door offering to inspect the home damage for free, or offering a discount on  repairs because they have left over material from a previous job.

Some cons approach the homeowners and tell them they were sent by their insurance company to look for damages and repair them. These are all big signs that someone may be trying to scam you. Some of the phony contractors may target minorities, people whose native language isn’t English, women, first time home buyers or the elderly.

Other red flags to watch for include them offering to pay your deductable to get your business, no formal written contracts or contracts that are very vague or don’t give a price estimate. They may seem pushy or use scare tactics to get you to hurry up and hire them.

Never pay a contractor full money up front; most ethical contractors won’t ask you to pay more than the typical down payment or earnest money. Always get your insurers approval before having work done. Ask to see their business license and ask if they are bonded.

See if there are laws to protect homeowners from “storm-chasers” in your state.

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