Traveling contractors are looking to prey on storm damage victims-- Here's what to be on the lookout for

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW)- It’s storm season on the Great Plains and scammers are looking to take advantage of people suffering from storm damage.

The Better Business Bureau says it has received numerous reports of out-of-town contractors setting up shop in Nebraska, South Dakota, the Kansas plains and southwest Iowa. Often times the travelers will operate out of extended stay hotels and may establish virtual offices to create of the illusion of being local.

Many times the traveling contractors are willing to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use their business’s established name, reputation and phone number to masquerade as a local company.

“We have seen this happen before,” said Jim Hegarty, president and CEO, Better Business Bureau. “After doing repairs paid by insurance companies, the out-of-state contractors left the area. Many legitimate contractors, who agreed to let the ‘travelers’ use their name, regretted their decision after they were left ‘holding the bad’ of unsatisfied customers because of poor workmanship and/or unfulfilled warranties.”

Storms victims should always contact their homeowners insurance carriers to inform them of possible damage and be extremely cautious when being approached by repair representatives.

Tips to protect yourself from traveling repair firms include:

• Don’t be pressured: Some “travelers” will try to pressure you into making a decision immediately. Don’t fall for it. Just as you would for a standard home improvement project, interview several companies before making a decision.
• Check references: Get references from several past customers. Make sure these are local to your area and at least a year old, so you can check on the quality of the work.
• Check with BBB to find reputable contractors that you can trust: You can find Business Reviews of BBB Accredited Businesses in your area at www.bbbinc.org or by calling 800-649-6814. BBB Business Reviews are more than just a grade. You can also read past complaints from customers and customer reviews.
• Make sure it’s legal: Confirm that any business being considered for hire is licensed and registered to do work in your area. Also, request proof of a current insurance certificate from a contractor’s insurance company and verify that the policy is active.
• Get it in writing: Always be sure to get a written contract with the price, materials and timeline. The more detail, the better.
• Understand Warranty Procedures: If a firm is not local, ask who they have contracted with locally for warranty work. Be sure to verify this with the local company and have this agreement included in your contract.

“Some of these contractors are notorious bad actors and prey on homeowners by promising repairs, collecting a fee and failing to deliver,” Hegarty said. “Beware!”