‘Don’t be fooled:’ BBB warns of ‘storm chasers’ and other doorstep contractors

MILWAUKEE —  The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin (BBB) is warning of “Storm Chasers”  — saying that transient businesses may attempt to cheat homeowners and businesses out of money. This, as parts of Wisconsin are suffering from flooding.

According to the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau, storm chasers typically follow the headlines and quickly move into regions hard hit by wind, flooding and the other ravages of weather. Nonetheless, unethical contractors will visit neighborhoods to convince consumers and businesses that their property needs urgent repairs.

Fond du Lac flooding

“Don’t be fooled by a business truck, website, or business card. Marketing material does not mean they are capable of doing the job safely or properly,” says Jim Temmer, CEO/president of BBB Serving Wisconsin. “They may be operating illegally, lack insurance or proper licensing and training.”

A press release from the BBB says such contractors attempt to lure their victims with an appealingly low price, urge them to hand over a deposit and sign a contract on the spot, so that work may begin the following day. Unfortunately, there are a number of possible unfortunate problems for victims.

Fond du Lac flooding

A rogue operator may ask you to sign a contract that would allow them to negotiate on your behalf with your insurance company. In cases like these, the insurance check may go straight to the contractor regardless of the quantity and quality of work.

Some of them will complete the job as agreed upon, but consumers complain to BBB about substandard craftsmanship and materials. If they disappear after working on a roof, electrical system or other property, you will have to find a reputable specialist to finish the job.

Fond du Lac flooding

Some contractors don’t want to fix work that was botched by someone else because of liability risks, especially if the materials are not suitable for the job or if the work was not carried out properly. That means victims will be required to have the job redone at their own expense, and will lose any deposit paid in advance.

BBB Serving Wisconsin offers tips to avoid problems with unethical contractors:

  • Don’t do business at your front door – This is probably the worst way to make a buying decision. Criminals and scammers are hoping to get you to sign a contract for potentially expensive work without allowing you sufficient time to read it and do your research.
  • Get several quotes – Compare the same work and materials with a minimum of three contractors. If one quote is too high or low, ask why.
  • Obtain recent references – Check with people who have had work done by the same company within the past year or two. The more recent the better. Ownership of a business can change hands quickly, and employees who did such a good job six months ago may be replaced with others who are not as careful or reliable.
  • Verify their licensing and credentials – Anyone can slap a name on a truck or a business card. You can check on their corporation status with the state’s WDFI office. In addition, ask for contact information for their insurer to make sure they have current insurance.
  • Get everything in writing – You should receive a written estimate that includes the materials, their cost, estimated cost of labor and all verbal promises.
  • Check with Better Business Bureau – Look up a business or professional’s BBB Business Review to see what sort of experiences other consumers have had, or select a trustworthy professional from the BBB Accredited Business Directory. Report scams and fraud to BBB’s Scam Tracker.

Portion of Highway 83 in Hartland temporarily closed due to flooding

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.bbb.org/wisconsin, 414-847-6000 or 1-800-273-1002. Consumers also can find more information about how to protect themselves from scams by following the Wisconsin BBB on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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