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Don't get scammed by 'storm chasers' - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

Don't get scammed by 'storm chasers'

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A home in Rockport that was severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey. A home in Rockport that was severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

After natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, there are inspiring tales of rescue, generosity, and hope. 

We also hear about the tales of scams and frauds and storm survivors being taken advantage of by scam artists.

In light of the recent storm that passed through the area, homeowners should be on the lookout for roof repair scam artists.

Be particularly careful of "storm chasers." They are the contractors that go door-to-door soliciting business to repair damage or leaks, looking to make a quick buck. 

"If you are trying to buy a big ticket item like a roof, it is not something you want to buy from someone that's knocking on doors," said owner of Texas State Roofing Chuck Giffin.

The sad truth is that some contractors prey on storm victims to rip them off. So what is the first thing you should do before hiring a contractor?

Research the company. Gather as much information as possible about the business. Do they have a website and business card? Is the caller from the company they say they're from? To double check, call the company using the phone number listed on their official website.

Check if they are licensed, bonded and insured. Contractors must have an active license to work on certain types of jobs. Some states require a bond which makes sure the tradesperson follows the rules of their license. If a worker isn't insured and gets hurt at the job, then the claim may be filed against the homeowner's insurance.

Be wary of arranging payments. Homeowners should never pay with cash, only by check or credit card. Businesses should not require large deposits, only accept cash, or as for the entire costs up front.

Be sure to have a written contract. Have the contractor write up a contract listing all the details of the project including a start and completion date, payment schedule and information about the contractor including license number, address and phone number.

Ask for references. Ask contractors for a list of completed recent projects. Or if they say they have done work close by, ask your neighbors. If possible, view the work and interview the site's owner.

And remember as you are searching for a reputable contractor, be patient, they are busy.

"We are backed up two or three weeks and I am sure most of the good contractors are also backed up. Be patient and get somebody to look at it first and then you can file a claim if there is storm damage and they will advise you in that process. And any contractor that charges you is probably one you don't want anyway," said Giffin.

It is against the law right now to give money up front to a contractor. We are declared a disaster area and state law prevents a contractor from demanding or requiring any kind of money.

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