ROANOKE, Va (WFXR) — September is National Preparedness Month, and with the nation in peak hurricane season, The Better Business Bureau warns about thieves looking for opportunities to scam you before you can even consider cleanup and recovery.

Scammers, “storm chasers,” or out-of-town contractors, will look for opportunities after a storm has passed and will try and press homeowners to make quick decisions regarding repairs.

“Not all storm chasers are scammers; they may lack the proper licensing and make big promises they can’t deliver, which is why it is important to make hasty decisions,” says Julie Wheeler, President and CEO of BBB Serving Western Virginia.

Wheeler adds she has seen reports of scammers going door to door to prey upon vulnerable people. Scammers will have homeowners pay for a small job only to be told afterward that more work was completed, and they now owe exorbitant amounts of money. In other cases, contractors will take the money; however, they don’t do the work and disappear.

“Don’t do business door to door. Always try and get at least two or three quotes before you have work done,” says Wheeler.

BBB shares tips to prevent storm scams

  • Assess the damage and take pictures.
  • Contact your insurance company immediately. Do not make permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be your insurance company, do not give out personal information until you are sure the call is legitimate.
  • Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on Check your state or provincial government agency responsible for registering and/or licensing contractors. Get references from friends and relatives. 
  • Be on the lookout for price gouging. Report any instances you see to your local BBB and Attorney General’s Office.
  • Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.

The Better Business Bureau always stresses having a written contract with anyone you hire, and the contract should specify the work and a price breakdown of labor and materials used. Only pay in full or make final payment once you are satisfied with the outcome.