Don't Get Scammed in Aftermath of Storm
July 23, 2010

July 23, 2010, Milwaukee, Wis. – The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is warning homeowners who were affected by last night’s severe weather to be wary of untrustworthy contractors trying to take advantage of your situation.

“It’s a sad fact that ‘storm chasers’ and scammers typically follow natural disasters,” says Randall L. Hoth, president/CEO of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. “In your haste to do repairs, don’t forget to research companies before you hire them. If you don’t, you could have an even bigger disaster on your hands.”

The Wisconsin BBB has more than 80 accredited businesses throughout the state in the water damage restoration industry. Click here for a list of BBB accredited businesses, which the user can filter by city or zip code. BBB accreditation means a business must abide by the BBB’s eight standards of accreditation.

Hoth offers these tips when hiring a contractor:

  1. Beware of “fly-by-night” contractors or “storm chasers” who swarm the area after a storm. They may not be properly licensed or insured, may be using inferior materials and may be hard to locate later if there is a problem with their work.
  2. Check out the company with the BBB. Call 800-273-1002 or visit www.wisconsin.bbb.org to check out the BBB’s rating on the company. Ratings can range from A+ to F and will tell you how many complaints (if any) the company has, how long it has been in business and where it is located.
  3. Ask for and check references. Trustworthy businesses should be able to direct you to references that will vouch for their credibility. Follow through and confirm the company’s reliability with multiple references before you hire.
  4. Beware of price gouging. Some unethical businesses may be marking up their products or services by as much as 500 percent. If you can wait to do any repairs until this busy time passes, do it.
  5. Make any temporary repairs, then take the time to hire ethical business contracts. Beware of companies who claim your home is structurally unsafe and needs expensive repairs.
  6. Check with your insurance company, and make sure to take pictures and document any repair needs as soon as possible.
  7. Compare bids, but determine which company will provide the best quality and not just the lowest price. Some “storm chaser” companies will offer rock-bottom prices, but may be unlicensed or providing inferior services. Legitimate contractors can provide a “Certificate of Insurance” that verifies they have current liability and workmen’s compensation coverage. Every consumer should verify that contractors are properly insured and licensed before allowing them to work on their property.
  8. Remember that reputable companies don’t ask for the entire fee up-front. Never pay more than one-third of the cost before repairs are complete. Also, pay by check or credit card instead of cash. These more secure methods of payment ensure that you will be more likely to track and retrieve your money in case of a scam.

For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), (920)-734-4352 (Appleton) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).