As Connecticut tries to dig itself out of the wreckage of last week’s storms, officials have a dire warning. Beware of storm chasers.
Aspetuck News reports that storm chasers are scammers who prey on families hoping to quickly repair the damage done to their home. While these “contractors” may promise a fair price for repairs, they might just take your money and bounce.
Other storm chasers might offer to do the work quickly… for a price. And then leave you with shoddy repairs that even a shoemaker could do.
Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull said homeowners hit hard by last week’s storm should anticipate a few pitches from these scammers:
“Whenever there’s a bad storm, we always hope that everyone’s circumstances improve when the weather does, but that’s not always true. Some contractors take advantage of a situation that’s already stressful for families by offering to do home repairs at low cost, and not following through.”
So how can people protect themselves from these vultures? While some families might have the luxury of taking their time to decide on a contractors, others might need immediate repairs.
For example, homes that had numerous trees fall on them, or those who have exposed roofs. The sooner crews come in to fix the damage, the less the building will sustain. So, some people might make impulsive decisions.
And that’s exactly what storm chasers bank on.
Seagull offered this advice on how to spot a potential scam:
“If a contractor asks you to decide immediately in order to get a cheaper price, or asks you to pay in cash – it’s most likely a scam.”
Yeah, if you pay in cash… you won’t see that money again if it does turn out to be a scam. Credit cards normally work to restore the money you lost since they can trace the funds.
With that said, even though a potential contractor promises the moon, stars, sun, and sky by the end of the week, resist saying yes right away. Instead, officials suggest taking a step back to assess the offer and shop around.
“Consumers should always do their research before deciding who should do repairs on their home,” Seagull advises.
Most importantly, she stresses, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it normally is.
So, what other ways can you defend yourself against storm chasers? Easy.
Shopping around is, first and foremost, the best way to avoid scammers. It also allows you to choose the company best fitted for your needs.
Another recommendation is arming yourself with questions. Homeowners who did their homework are better prepared against honey-talking scammers. Those who ask the right questions will eventually see red flags.
Speaking of arming yourself, always ask for a written contract on the repairs you want done to your home. If the contractor fails to uphold their end of the agreement, it opens them up to a lawsuit. Also, make sure you hammer out a clear-as-crystal payment plan in your contracts. The DCP says you should never pay up front.
Also, before you hire a contractor, double check their registration with the DCP to make sure they’re legit and have good standing. You can do so HERE. All contractors must be registered with the state. If a contractor’s name doesn’t show up, then you know it’s a scammer.
Storm chasers are no joke. They prey on frazzled families at the heels of a major disaster. Since last week’s storm was far worse than Super storm Sandy, then these scammers will be out in full force looking for suckers.
Don’t let that happen to you.
But, if it does, like a scammer pressures you into hiring them, you have options. If they fail on their promises, you first reach out to them to try and resolve the situation.
If they refuse, then you usher in the big guns and email the DCP at email@example.com with your complaint. The more detailed your report, the better chance you have at making things right again.
Also, if your elderly or vulnerable neighbors or family members sustained damage during the storm, be sure to reach out to them with this information. Storm chasers tend to prey on those who are trusting and vulnerable to their tactics.
Hope this information helps!