MISSOURI (KFVS) - Attorney General Chris Koster is warning people to be alert for possible "storm-chasers" following the heavy rains and flooding across Missouri.
Koster said that his office will pursue action against anyone who takes advantage of Missouri consumers in the aftermath of storms.
"We are here to protect Missourians whose homes and businesses are damaged by these devastating storms," Koster said. "All Missourians who experience storm or flooding damage should be on the alert for storm-chasers -- scammers who follow severe weather and prey on people needing to repair or rebuild their property."
Koster said storm-chasers typically go door-to-door offering to provide repair or clean-up services. They often claim to be recovery experts or contractors specializing in flood repairs. In reality, these storm-chasers provide shoddy or no work after taking up-front payment, and then flee the area, leaving the homeowner with little or no recourse.
Storm-chasers generally use high-pressure sales tactics, ask for cash up-front, and may try to convince consumers to sign a contract allowing their company to negotiate with the homeowner's insurance company directly. Storm-chasers often have out-of-state driver's licenses or license plates and are not able to produce local references or prove they have the licenses or bonds required by the municipality or county.
Koster offers the following tips to avoid becoming the victim of storm-chasers and other scam contractors:
- Do not pay for work up-front. Inspect the work and make sure you are satisfied before you pay. A reasonable down-payment may be required for some projects, but don't pay anything without getting a written contract. Avoid paying with cash; use a check or a credit card instead.
- Beware of any contractor who tries to rush you or who comes to your home to solicit work. If an offer is "only good now or never," find someone else to perform the work.
- Contact your insurance company. Some insurance companies require an adjuster's approval before work can be done. Take pictures and videos of the damage, if possible. Cover holes in your roof or walls with a tarp to prevent additional damage if you can do so safely.
- Seek recommendations from friends, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had work performed on their homes in the past. Do not hire any person without asking for, and checking, references.
- Get three written estimates for the work, if possible, and compare bids. Check credentials and contact the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau to learn about any complaints against the contractor. Before work begins, make sure you get a written contract detailing all the work to be performed, its costs and a projected completion date.
Consumers with questions about a contractor or who wish to file a consumer complaint should contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline online or at 800-392-8222.