Avoid flood disaster ripoffs

Better Business Bureau offers guidelines

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DETROIT - Sadly, the historic flooding in metro Detroit will be seen as a golden opportunity by scam artists looking to make a quick buck.

The Better Business Bureau sounds the alarm after every weather disaster about so-called "Storm Chaser" scams. Many times the con artists will spread out into communities affected by the flood damage and offering their services.

Here are some of the steps you can take to protect yourself from the scammers who care more about money than helping with your weather damage.

1) Always get three to four quotes for the big repair jobs. If you don't ask for more than one quote, you won't have a good idea of what the project will really cost. Scam artists often come up with really low bids to get your business, but you end up paying again to have the work finished or redone. You need to be able to spot a price that's too low!

2) If you need quick service (IE Water Removal), do you best to get a referral from a family member or friend. You can also check the Better Business Bureau website and even check online reviews. Doing your homework can seem very daunting during a crisis, but getting ripped off will be even worse.

3) Don't allow a salesperson to pressure you into making a quick decision. High pressure sales tactics are often a red flag that you're dealing with a con artists.

4) Get references and check them. For a quick reference check, find out if the company is a member of any professional organizations and call that group to see if they have a good reputation.

5) Make sure any company you hire is licensed and insured to to business in your area. You can ask to see proof of a current insurance certificate from a contractor's insurance company.

6) Ask for a written contract with price, materials, and timeline. The more detail the better.

7) Do not pay the full price of the repairs up front. Make sure some of the money is due upon completion, so you maintain some leverage in case problems come up during the project. Many contractors do require a third, or even half, of the estimate as down payment. Make sure you get a receipt and the contract spells out the amount you've already paid.

8) Ask for a receipt marked "Paid in Full" when the job is done.

9) Avoid contractors who claim they have extra material from their last job.

10) Avoid contractors who will only take cash for payment.

11) Avoid contractors who ask you to get the building permit. And, make sure the company you do hire pulls the proper permits for the job.

To get more information from the Better Business Bureau, follow this link.

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