August 30, 2014

BBB warns of scams in wake of storm damage

Damage at Lake Panorama.

Damage at Lake Panorama.

Many Iowans are still cleaning up from Sunday’s series of severe thunderstorms that included six tornadoes and hurricane-force winds that demolished homes and farmsteads and shredded trees.

Jim Hegerty, with the Better Business Bureau, says if you have damage, beware of fast-talking crooks who are ready to swoop in. “Out of town repair firms that kind of drift in, they may go door-to-door, offer to be able to do your repairs very quickly,” Hegerty says. “They may demand cash up-front and we would never advise doing that.”

Hegerty says these people are known as “storm chasers” and often their goal is to prey on disaster victims. “A lot of times, this is the way these travelers that don’t have the consumers’ best interests at heart, they might try to take advantage of folks,” he says. “You really do want to be careful with door-to-door solicitations and door hangers. Take your time, check them out, call the bureau and we’ll let you know whether you’re dealing with a reliable firm or not.”

A tornado at Lake Panorama damaged several homes.

A tornado at Lake Panorama damaged several homes.

The National Weather Service says two tornadoes touched down in northwest Iowa on Sunday near Sheldon and Hospers, three tornadoes struck in central Iowa around Guthrie Center and Lake Panorama and one twister landed in southeast Iowa near Donnellson.

The largest was an E-F-2 with winds of 115 miles an hour that hit near Lake Panorama, wiping out 20 homes and condos. No serious injuries are reported.

Given all of the wind damage, Iowans may need help from professionals with roof repairs and tree trimming. “We may get some folks that drift up here or down here from out of the area that may or may not be reputable,” Hegerty says. “We’re not saying that all of these folks are bad news. Sometimes, they provide a valuable service but a lot of times, you want to be really cautious.”

Hegerty says before signing any deal, make sure you call your insurance company and follow their recommendations. He says never pay anyone up-front for repairs and always get the details in writing before making a decision. Learn more at: www.bbb.org/iowa