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Be alert! Watch out for Hurricane Matthew storm chasers

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RICHMOND, Va. — The Better Business Bureau has offered a warning to people in Virginia about storm chasers. Not the people who chase tornadoes to capture great images or weather data, but the people who show up at your door after storms — like Hurricane Matthew.

“With Hurricane Matthew bearing down on Florida and making its way up the east coast of the U.S, BBB serving Central Virginia is warning that storm chasers will be waiting to knock on doors offering to help clean up and make repairs to damaged property,” a BBB spokesperson said.

“Do not feel forced to choose an unknown contractor. Storm chasers may lack the proper licensing in our area,” Tom Gallagher, President & CEO of BBB serving Central Virginia. said. “They may also offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver.”

BBB offers the following tips for storm victims:

Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on www.bbb.org. We have BBB Business Reviews on more than a million home contractors. Reach out to the Virginia’s Board for Contractors (804-367-8511) to verify that the contractor is licensed. Check with your homeowners insurance; the repairs you need may already be covered.

Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.

Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for your state.

Get at least three estimates. Get quotes in writing, don’t accept estimates over the phone, and be wary of very low estimates, which could set up a “bait and switch” tactic.

Know your rights and responsibilities. Check with your town to see what permits contractors need to work on your property. Check with your insurance company to make sure your liability insurance covers falls or injuries to contractors.

Don’t pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront. Insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual. Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.

Get a written contract and verify their insurance. Make sure it specifies the price, the work to be done and who will do it, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Require a copy of their current certificate of insurance.

Be wary regarding places you can’t see. While most roofers abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.

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