The Better Business Bureau warns that scammers may be chasing your wallet in light of the recent storms that hit our area.

The BBB urges you to be wary of "fly-by-night storm chasers," as well as fraudulent charities promising to provide relief.

"Not only do Americans need to be concerned about avoiding fraud, they need to know that their home contractors and charity relief efforts are legitimate and honorable," said BBB President Andy Fisher in a news release. "It's imperative to find a home contractor and charity that you can trust."

The BBB has this advice for homeowners:

Start Your Search with BBB. In addition to offering Business Reviews on tens of thousands of contractors-good and bad-across the US, you can also rely on BBB’s Accredited Business Locator to find trustworthy contractors in your area. BBB accreditation standards require that accredited businesses make a good faith effort to resolve disputes.

Find trustworthy charities when aiding to relief. BBB Wise Giving Alliance urges donors to make sure their donations will go to legitimate and reputable charities and relief efforts that have the capability to help those in need. Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. Interested donors should visit to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Recognize the red flags. Beware of any contractor who uses high pressure sales tactics or requires full payment upfront. Also avoid contractors who require you to get the necessary permits. When looking to make a donation, be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the previous natural disasters, there were concerns raised about many Web sites and new organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims.

Vet the contractor carefully. Verify the business meets all state and local requirements including being licensed, insured and bonded. Also ask the business for references from recent jobs. Confirm whether or not the contractor will be subcontracting the job or relying on their own employees.

Beware of storm chasers. In the wake of a storm, fly-by-night repair businesses will solicit work, often door-to-door, in unmarked trucks. They might require advance payment and make big promises on which they won’t be able to deliver.

Seek at least three bids. Beware of low-ball estimates that may potentially balloon over time or foreshadow shoddy work to come.

Make sure everything is in writing. Make sure that the full scope of the work is explained in the contract including cleanup and disposal of waste. All verbal agreements need to be included in the written agreement. Pay close attention to the payment terms, estimated price of materials and labor and any warranties or guarantees.

For more advice on hiring home professionals and for finding a charity you can trust, visit the BBB's website or BBB Wise Give Alliance.

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