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BBB: Recent storms have some worried about getting scammed

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BBB: Tips for a Fraud Free 2021
Ask the BBB: Beware of "storm chasers" who pop up after natural disasters
Posted at 7:57 AM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 12:40:18-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As Coastal Bend communities recover from massive flooding due to storms that hit last week, many people are looking at the devastation and wondering where to start.

Unfortunately, some folks referred to as "storm chasers" who follow natural disasters are making the recovery process even more challenging.

These "storm chasers" are scammers looking to take advantage of those who need help.

Katie Galan with the Better Business Bureau says not all "storm chasers" are scammers.

"Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver," Galan said. "Often found soliciting services door to door, they make offers but disappear after accepting payment. Avoid hiring any contractor who uses high-pressure sales tactics, such as 'today only' offers, or demands full payment up front."

Due to the extent and variety of damages flooding can inflict across a large area, recovery efforts are often lengthy and complicated.

Downed power lines, road debris, flood damage and infrastructure instability are all major obstacles that can contribute to prolonged recovery timelines. State and national disaster recovery organizations, such as FEMA can significantly contribute to a recovering community.

However, it may take weeks for the organizations to reach an affected area, depending on the extent of damages and road conditions.

Galan and the BBB have these tips to offer the public some safety.

"First, find out if you’re covered," she said. "Basic homeowners insurance policies often do not include damages incurred from flooding. Basic water damages that most homeowners insurance covers are focused on sudden and accidental situations, such as a busted water pipe.

"Call your insurance company immediately to report the damage and discuss how to proceed with repairs and ask if your policy includes flood protection. Second, do your research. After an insurance adjuster has surveyed your flood damage, you will need to find a reputable company to make repairs."

Galan says it's always a good idea to get several bids. so you don’t end up paying large fees upfront or pay in cash.

The BBB also 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.

Be sure to 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.

To learn more about how to identify and protect yourself from storm chasers, log onto bbb.org/storm.