Spring brings flowers, yard work, outdoor activities, and periodically, severe storms. Severe storms in Indiana can cause everything from downed trees to major damage to homes.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (iii), hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property each year. In 2017, Indiana ranked #7 in the U.S. in the number of properties that experienced hail damage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) reports that in 2016, Indiana had 440 combined incidents of tornados, hail and wind.
Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana (BBB) gets reports every year of scammers taking advantage of consumers needing immediate repairs after a severe storm. While it’s understandable that consumers want to immediately hire a contractor to make repairs, BBB advises consumers to take some time to do their homework before hiring a contractor. The need for immediate repairs combined with the emotional toll of experiencing loss can be the perfect storm for anyone to be scammed.
BBB offers the following tips for consumers when dealing with storm damage:
- Contact your insurance company immediately. Inquire about your policy coverage and filing requirements. Some insurance companies now have dedicated storm response teams that could offer additional assistance.
- Document the damage.?Take pictures and videos from multiple angles.
- Do your research. Visit bbb.org to check the trustworthiness of a business or to get a listing of BBB accredited contractors. If the work being done requires a license, check with your local licensing authority to make sure the business’s license is current. This is particularly important for businesses soliciting door-to-door.
- Insist on a written contract before any work is started and understand all the terms. Make sure the business name, address and phone number appear on all estimates and contracts. The contract should specify the work to be done, the materials used, estimated start and completion dates, warranties, who is responsible for any permits that may be needed (typically the business is responsible for this) and the payment terms. Any verbal promises should be added to the contract.
- Do not pay in cash. Do not pay in full up front and always pay in a form that can be documented such as a check or credit card.
- There is a telephone scam going around that involves names of Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office Deputies including leadership.
- These phone calls include threats of tracking the victims cell phone and false accusations of criminal charges if the victim does not comply.
- Please DO NOT give any personal information. Hang up and call your local law enforcement authorities.