SHELBY, Ohio — Tornadoes have no mercy and neither do the scammers who swoop in like scavengers after storms, preying on panicked homeowners.
Kelly Worner’s home was hit twice by a tornado. But she learned quite a lesson after the first one.
"My contractor forged his credentials and recommendations. I wouldn't make that mistake again,” she says.
In Shelby though, they're sitting ducks. Dishonest contractors, often from out of state, will be driving around looking for a quick way to make cash.
"We see the contractors usually coming in, even as quickly as 24 hours, says Charlie Worsham, Director of Field Operations for the Midwest Bureau of the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
"They follow the storms, as well as the meteorologist. They know where they are, where they just hit and they're there in a matter of less than a day.”
Typically they'll show up at your door offering repairs at cut rate costs. Even promising to work with your insurance. But for that deal, you'll need to say yes right then and there, or else the deal’s off the table.
Chad Holladay, who is a licensed roofer says, "There’s a lot of people that use scare tactics to get you to sign early, telling you ‘hey you've got hail damage, your roof is going to leak, you’ve got all kinds of problems’, and that's just not warranted.”
Often, minor repairs will do until you can find a reputable contractor. But when fear takes over, that's when people get taken.
“Too many times the home owner is in such a rush to get the roof on, that he doesn't review the contract,” says Jim Gillen, a Special Agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. “The person that they thought was a legit contractor isn't. So, you might wind up paying him money for half the fees in the beginning of it and he's gone. He’s taken your money and left.”
The NICB has these tips to avoid getting scammed:
- Call your insurance first
- Check out any company you're considering hiring, with the Better Business Bureau, the Ohio Attorney General, or the Ohio Secretary of State
- Make sure to get everything in writing
- Read the contract carefully
- Never pay the full amount upfront, or in cash.
In Janet Kehre’s neighborhood, at least three houses were destroyed and she lost her garage.
But the residents in Shelby say they'll be just fine. Because it’s their neighbors who will be swooping in...to help one another.
"You'll be surprised how quickly all this will be cleaned up. It will be a complete different picture," she told us.
Ohio law protects consumers from door- to-door sales, by giving them three days to cancel a contract for any reason. Contractors need to provide you with a copy of that form to sign. And they are not supposed to begin work until the end of those three days.
For more information on door-to-door sales in Ohio, click here.