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AUSTIN, Texas — There are a couple of different things that tend to sprout up after a heavy storm: flowers and critters come to mind.
Did scammers come to mind? They should. They’re out there, and they’re looking to make a quick buck off any repairs homeowners may be needing after bad weather hits.
“What we call them is ‘storm chasers’ — those people that do come up after a storm, offering to do the work really quick,” said Jarrod Wise, vice president of communications for the Better Business Bureau. “Typically what happens is you pay cash upfront in those situations and that contractor walks way.”
On Saturday and Sunday mornings, Austin was hit particularly hard with some thunderstorms. Sunday’s rain and lightning was so severe that it led to the cancellation of the Statesman Capitol 10K for the first time in its 42 years.
Wise said it’s not uncommon for his office to get a lot of calls asking about and reporting potential scammers after a heavy storm. And with a lot of the severe weather season still left to go, he’s advising that home and car owners remain vigilant.
“Be very careful about the high-pressure sales tactics,” he said. “Scammers, con-artists will really particularly try to not only target those who are more vulnerable but they’ll really pressure you to buy now. ‘You have to do this now,’ ‘This is a one-time offer,’ ‘You have to pay in cash right now.'”
He said scammers can be a little threatening, too.
“So, if you ever get in those situations where you feel threatened, call your local police department as well and let them know what’s going on because you don’t want other people to be in that situation as well,” Wise said.
Who are the typical targets in these types of scams?
“People who are single, living on their own, or someone who might be elderly, or might be able to get targetted specifically because they might not be the kind of person that might verify a lot of information right away or have that backup to be able to say, ‘No, you shouldn’t do that,'” he said.
Wise said you should watch out for your neighbors who may be good targets for scammers.
“If you have neighbors that are elderly, on their own, make sure to check with them after a storm as well and let them know that if individuals do come along and offer undervalue repairs to their home, to be prepared to just walk away,” he said.
Before the storm hits, Wise said one of the first things you should do is check your insurance policy for your home or car. You should try to figure out how much coverage you actually have for any kind of wind or water damage to your home before paying up to a potential scam contractor.
One of the ways property owners can do their part in keeping an eye out for and reporting scams is by using the BBB Scam Tracker. The tracker allows you to search your city or zip code to see what type of scams are popping up in your area in real time.
Here’s the biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to any scam: it never hurts to do some extra research. In some cases, it could make all the difference when it comes to saving money and keeping your information from scammers.
“Make sure to double check their information, if they have any special licensing requirements that they need, etcetera,” he said.
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