Tips to Avoid After Storm Scams from Angie's List

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Angie’s List offers tips to families whose homes have suffered storm damage, on how not to fall victim to scams from unscrupulous contractors.

Weather fluctuates, but the habits of unscrupulous contractors remain constant: they follow storms preying on homeowners so desperate to fix what the storm damaged they'll accept the first offer of help that comes their way

Angie’s List, the website where consumers can turn to get the real scoop on local contractors and companies, offers tips on how to avoid scams after a storm or other natural disaster has damaged their homes.

“Mother Nature seems to have had a bone to pick with Americans this year,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. “Homeowners in the Midwest, Northeast and South are still dealing with flood damage and New Yorkers and Chicagoans are grappling with tornado cleanup. And though it's been a mild hurricane season for the U.S. so far, the specter of Katrina still has coastal residents on edge.”

For too many foul weather victims, the natural disasters won't be the worst aspect of the storm they'll face. Worse than the wrath of Mother Nature is a man-made phenomenon known as storm chasing, fly-by-night contractors who come calling almost as soon as the skies clear. Too many homeowners, eager for the quick work offered for cash up front, fall for the age-old scam.

"Weather fluctuates, but the habits of unscrupulous contractors remain constant: they follow storms preying on homeowners so desperate to fix what the storm damaged they'll accept the first offer of help that comes their way," said Angie. "Often, these storm chasers will undercut local providers, demand cash up front and then either do a shoddy job or no job at all before heading out of town looking for their next victim."

Angie's List offers tips to keep storm victims from getting soaked again:

  • What not to do: If a stranger comes to your storm-ravaged yard offering to repair your roof, remove trees or do other major repair work for cash upfront, just say no. Chances are, he or she will take your money and disappear.
  • What to do: Check references and/or business standing on Angie's List or similar services before hiring anyone to fix your storm damage.
  • Quality is worth the wait: When massive storms hit, tree services, plumbers, roofers and hauling companies are in high demand, and the best performers are generally the busiest. Beware the company with time on its hands when every other similar company can't even answer the phones.
  • Get estimates: Despite what you may view as desperate times, take the time to get at least a few different estimates for your job. And get it in writing - documentation is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong.
  • License for hire: Don't rely on the contractor's word to know whether his or her license is valid: check it out through the appropriate agency. Check the status of the contractor's bonding and liability insurance coverage too.

Whether it is damage from a storm or just being smart and checking credentials, Angie's List is where consumers can turn to get the real scoop on local contractors and companies in more than 280 different categories. Currently, more than 500,000 consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie's List to help them find the right contractor or company for the job they need done. Members have unlimited access to the list via Internet or phone; receive the Angie's List magazine, which includes articles on home improvement and maintenance, consumer trends and scam alerts; and they can utilize the Angie's List complaint resolution service. Get more information and consumer tips at http://www.angieslist.com.

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Cheryl Reed
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