Straight Talk: Always be prepared to spot, avoid, report weather scams

Better Business Bureau
Special to The Canton Repository
BBB logo

Better Business Bureau serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices.

From the relentless series of powerful storms that have battered our area to the dozens of tornadoes that swept across six states, including Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky, 2023 is off to a devastating start.

Whether you are getting back on your feet or looking for ways to help people in hard-hit areas, learn how scammers operate – and how to avoid them.

How the scam works

Natural disasters like storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires often bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. This time of year, especially, the weather tends to have a mind of its own. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors taking advantage of those who have already been victimized. Better Business Bureau is warning homeowners affected by natural disasters to beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting business.

Home improvement scams can start with a knock on the door, a flyer, or an ad. The contractor may offer a low price or a short timeframe. One common hook is when the scammer claims to be working in your neighborhood on another project and has leftover supplies. Once started, a rogue contractor may "find" issues that significantly raise the price and if you object, they may threaten to walk away and leave a half-finished project. Or they may accept your upfront deposit and never return to do the job. These scammers also like to persuade homeowners to sign over their insurance payments.

How to avoid this scam

  • Remember the basics. BBB recommends homeowners obtain three estimates for repairs, get everything in writing, and pay with a credit card when possible. Find businesses you can trust on .
  • Be careful of door-to-door contractors and utility workers. Ask for identification from any individual going door-to-door. Check the worker’s company vehicle for a business name and contact information. Write down their license plate number. If you are contacted by a contractor going door-to-door, verify with your city that they have a solicitor’s permit.
  • Contact your insurance company. If your home or car suffered severe weather damage, ask your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.
  • Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you will only get if you hire the contractor on the spot. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision. Some unscrupulous contractors will also offer a deal on repairs citing they have “leftover material” from another job site.
  • Do not sign over insurance checks to contractors. Obtain an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly. Do not sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.
  • Do not panic about a utility call. Your utility company may make courtesy calls to remind you about an outstanding balance, but they will never call or email you to demand immediate payment under threats of a same-day shutoff or direct you to buy gift cards to pay your bill. If you suspect a scam or receive one of these phone calls, hang up and call your energy company directly.
  • Be wary regarding places you cannot see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.

For more information – If you have been the victim of a scam, report it at . Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.

For BBB information – Visit or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips, find our events, follow us on social media.