ABILENE, Texas - The Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers experiencing storm damage to be careful when making repair decisions.
"Natural disasters like this thunderstorm can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need," the BBB said in a news release. "Unfortunately, crises also bring out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims."
A hailstorm ripped through Abilene and the Big Country on Thursday, leaving behind significant damage to vehicles and buildings.
According to the BBB, some of the most common post-disaster scams involve auto and home repairs, as well as the cleanup.
The BBB offers the following tips to homeowners suffering auto and property damage in the wake of natural disasters:
*- Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy.
*- Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be pro-active in selecting a business and not re-active to sales solicitations. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
*- For major repairs, take time to shop around and get 3-4 estimates (unless you have a trusted contractor) based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one year-old, verify with BBB at 325-691-1533 or at bbb.org about the company's rating. All work inside homes that pre-dates 1978 must be done by contractors that are certified to conduct lead-based paint activities and renovations.
*- Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job "down the street" or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go door-to-door, check to see if they have a city of Abilene solicitation permit.
*- Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it.
*- Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number along with a start and end date for the work are included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety and don't sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature.
*- Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash! While many businesses may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more than one-third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor.
Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown business. Start with Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local business, visit bbb.org or call 325-691-1533.