Better Business Bureau's tips for storm victims

July 25, 2010 (CHICAGO) Scam artists are often quick to take advantage of people when natural disasters occur. Types of "storm chasing" businesses may include roofing contractors, landscapers, siding contractors, tree service companies, window contractors and waterproofing companies.

"Scam artist are trying to make money off people's misfortune," said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "If anyone comes to your door offering to begin work on damage, take their information and tell them that you will follow up if you are interested in using them for repairs."

The Chicago and Northern Illinois BBB has more than 7300 accredited businesses throughout the area. Please visit for a list of BBB accredited businesses, which the user can filter by city or zip code. BBB accreditation means a business must abide by the BBB's standards of accreditation.

If your property has been damaged by any of the recent weather, the BBB offers these tips before choosing a contractor:

  • When approached by a contractor, ask for proof of licensing and bonding.

  • Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors, and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.

  • Do not pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full payment up front.

  • Do not hire people who show up at your door offering services such as tree or debris removal and roof repair.

  • Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the "good deal" you'll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.

  • Check out the company first with the BBB at and deal only with reputable local contractors.

  • Get a written contract that specifies the price and the work to be done and a time frame. In Illinois state law requires a written contract with all costs enumerated for home repair or remodeling work over $1,000.

  • Prices are often high in the immediate aftermath of a storm be careful of price gouging. Buy only the services that are necessary to make your home safe and habitable. Wait at least a few days to hire other contractors because the rates are likely to drop.

  • Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there's a problem. Otherwise, pay by check. Never pay in cash. C

  • heck that the contractor's vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name and phone number.

  • Be sure that all promises made are put in writing.

    "Everybody wants to get their property fixed and back to normal as quickly as possible," said Bernas, "And ideally, they will make careful decisions and find the best crews to do good work at a fair price."

    For more information on finding businesses you can trust, visit

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