The Better Business Bureau serving Western Virginia has issued a warning to flooding victims in Buchanan County.
The BBB warns that so-called “storm chasers” look to take advantage of people who need help cleaning up and repairing flood damage. The BBB says that they take disaster victims’ money and do poor quality work or simply never return after payment is received.
These scammers also take business from local organizations who are equipped and ready to deal with natural disasters.
BBB offers tips for consumers and businesses that have been affected by the storms and flooding:
- Visit BBB.org for reliable information and lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and business reviews you can trust on local companies.
- Check to see that your contractor is properly licensed with the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation’s Board for Contractors.
- Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if salespeople go do-to-door. Verify that they must obtain a permit by contacting your local township or municipality.
- Get everything in writing. Clearly written, detailed proposals that are broken down into separate line items are a good sign that the contractor has prepared an accurate estimate.
- Don’t pay in full. Agree to terms on a payment schedule, but never pay in full for the job up front. Never make final payment or sign a final release until you are satisfied with the work done.
For those wanting to donate to the disaster victims:
- Research the organization on Give.org for reliable information on the charity and lists of charities that meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity.
- Be cautious when giving online, especially messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you want to give to a charity involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s Web site.
- Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims. Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee.
- Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas. Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to help quickly. See if the charity’s Web site clearly describes what it can do to address immediate needs of those affected.
- In-kind drives for food and clothing may not be the quickest way to help those in need unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute such aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans.