It's bad enough when you realize that you have storm damage to your home. Don't let it get worse by getting scammed out of a bunch of money, too.

I'm looking at an email from Dennis Horton, Director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), in which he points out that:

“Storm chasers and other scam artists are trying to make money off people’s misfortune” said Horton, “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.”

Less than scrupulous individuals (aka:“Storm Chasers”) 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 auto body repair companies.

If you find yourself in need of repair work due to storm damage; the BBB offers these tips before choosing a contractor:

  • Find businesses you can trust on our website bbb.org/ask.
  • 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 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 spelled out for home repair or remodeling work over $1,000.
  • Prices are often high in the immediate aftermath of a storm. 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.
  • Check 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.
  • If you've been the target of a scam or suspect scam activity, report it to authorities and BBB Scam Tracker to warn others.