Better Business Bureau alerts customers about home repair scammers

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As storms have surged through the Chicago region delivering high winds, hail, and rain damage impacting hundreds of local homeowners, consumers are in need of quick help making repairs.

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be aware of home repair scams.

The BBB recommends using caution when hiring a home improvement contractor.

Scams abound, especially following a major storm, flood, or other weather event, when many homeowners are trying to repair their houses.

But contractor scams can happen any time, so be wary of "storm chasers" who go door-to-door looking to rip-off homeowners. They use high-pressure sales tactics, often demand upfront fees, and are often fly-by-night businesses. These con artists will take homeowners' money and deliver shoddy work or no work at all.

"Consumers need to exercise major caution when hiring contractors for any type of home repair. Each year, The BBB releases an annual Scamtracker Risk Report listing the riskiest scams and Home Improvement Scams are always in the top 5, hitting consumers hard with an average loss of over $1,000," said CEO Steve Bernas, Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois president.

Tips to Spot This Scam:

  • Watch out for "red flags." Say no to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments, handshake deals without a contract, and on-site inspections. Not all "storm chasers" are con artists, but enough are that you should be cautious any time a home contractor contacts you first...especially after a natural disaster.

  • Ask for references and check them out. Bad contractors will be reluctant to share this information and scammers won't wait for you to do your homework. If you can, get references from past customers.

  • Check them out at to see business ratings and reviews of what other customers have experienced.

  • Illinois law requires that contractors provide a written contract for any repair work costing $1,000 or more. Make sure the contract includes the price, materials and timeline. The more detail, the better.

  • Know the law. Work with local businesses that have proper identification, licensing and insurance. Confirm that your vendor will get related permits and make sure you know who is responsible for what according to your local laws and that your vendor is ready to comply.

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