Illinois tornado: Storm victims should beware repair scams, IL AG says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The wail of chainsaws is everywhere as the resident of Naperville's Cinnamon Creek search for the salvageable from the detritus, the aftermath of a storm that hit these suburbs hard. Now, residents are warned not to take quick decisions about who will help them get back to normal.

"We heard of the news, we showed up the next day and right now we're just trying to make an impact and just show that we're here to help," said Derek Czerniak, Elite Home Restoration. "You know, we're not here to compete. We want to show that we can do the right thing insurance is looking for."

Insurance adjusters and contractors have visited hundreds of homes as the state attorney general warns residents to be on alert for scammers looking to exploit homeowners and business owners.

IL tornado: Naperville, Woodridge residents continue cleanup after storm damage

"As we are rebuilding our houses and rebuilding our homes, I would like to offer that kind of like, the comforting and reassurance to some of the residents out here to follow a couple steps," said Sara Sadat, Village of Lisle Trustee.

Sadat knows how these people feel. She and her family lost virtually everything in a house fire earlier this year. She said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul's warning is helpful.

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When disaster strikes, reports of scams soon follow.



"Another thing is that there are just so many people coming to doors and door knocking and getting people pushed into signed contracts, that's a huge push that I've been noticing around here with our neighbors," Sadat said. "They're telling them that they have one day or two days turn around on their contracts and that's simply not true."

There's a certain urgency when someone literally has no roof over their head to get things done. Nevertheless, storm victims should ensure contractors are licensed to solicit in their area - and proceed cautiously.

"I don't know how many people out here aren't sincere with their companies," Czerniak said. "I'm hoping it's very slim, but it's always potential that companies are not licensed, registered, or bonded in your area. That's going to going to prolong the experience of getting your home restored."

Raoul said general contractors are not required by state law to be licensed, but municipalities may require permits or have other local requirements.

Home and business owners should check with their local governments for more information about permits or other local requirements before hiring anyone.

Public adjusters must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI), and roofers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Steve Bernas, the head of BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois, said scammers and shoddy contractors come out like clockwork after a crisis.

"This is a dream come true for a scammer because they come in from all over the U.S., they are called storm chasers, not the good kind that chase storms, these are storm chaser contractors who take advantage of consumers," Bernas said.

Bernas offers several tips to protect yourself. They include do your research, contact your insurance company and get more than one estimate.
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