AUSTIN, Texas - The Better Business Bureau is warning customers, who may have been affected by the tornadoes in Central Texas on March 21, to watch out for scammers as they look to rebuild and fix damage to their homes.
The BBB calls the scammers following in the wake of natural disasters "storm chasers" and says the scammers capitalize on home and business owners who, in their desperation for immediate repairs, may not exercise as much caution when contracting the services of a repair company.
Not all "storm chasers" are scammers, the BBB says, but they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver. They're often found soliciting services door to door and make offers but disappear after accepting payment. The BBB says to avoid hiring any contractor who uses high-pressure sales tactics, such as "today only" offers, or demands full payment upfront.
In the aftermath of the devastation caused by tornadoes in Central Texas, BBB has the following advice to begin the recovery effort and avoid "storm chaser" scams:
- Find out if you’re covered. Unlike hurricanes or floods, tornado damages are usually covered by basic homeowners insurance. However, certain communities across Texas may be required to purchase additional wind damage insurance to cover wind-related damages, such as sheared shingles. Call your insurance company immediately to report the damage and discuss how to proceed with repairs and ask if you are required to have wind damage insurance. Make sure you understand how your insurance company will reimburse your repair costs. Take photos or videos of damage inside and outside of your house, as well as in your immediate area.
- Do your research. After an insurance adjuster has surveyed your tornado damage, you will need to find a reputable company to make repairs. Check with BBB.org to find a trustworthy business, such as roofing contractors or construction services.Get several bids. Don’t pay large fees upfront or pay in cash. BBB recommends consumers solicit bids from at least three different companies. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided. If approached by someone offering a "free" roof inspection, proceed with caution as it may be a scam.
- Ask for a timeline. Find out how long the repair will take. If damages were heavy in your area, it may take longer to schedule the repairs. Be sure to check with government organizations to see if you can qualify for assistance, especially if damage to your residence was so extensive it is not safe to live in without repairs.
- Get everything in writing. Be sure all work is explained in the contract, including cleanup, waste disposal, start and completion dates. Any verbal agreements made should be included in the contract.
BBB recommends businesses develop and implement contingency plans that go beyond response and recovery. These plans should be designed to help support your business through a lengthy period of recovery and reduced operations. Aspects that business owners should consider are: securing a temporary location, managing employee availability due to possible damages and working with the appropriate agencies to rebuild and/or repair.
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