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Watch out for storm chasing fraudsters

The summer season of powerful storms wreaking destruction and causing property damage is upon us and it's important to keep yourself protected from those hoping to make a quick buck off your misfortune. In Cranbrook, the storms  comes as not only wind storms like the one back in July, but thunderstorms with rain and floods, and even forest fires.

Some nearby communities in Alberta recently suffered several damaging hail storms, one of which was in Airdrie, and out of that the Better Business Bureau is putting out a warning encouraging home owners to careful when it comes time to hire disaster recovery and repair contractors.

"Scammers tend to come out of the woodwork after a weather disaster to capitalize on the fact that people are vulnerable," said Sandra Crozier-McKee, who is president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and the East Kootenay.

Crozier-McKee said that while residents are anxious to repair damage to their homes and vehicles, they should take the time to ensure they're not dealing with a storm chaser.

Crozier-McKee said the storm chasers are generally out-of-town contractors who show up after a disaster. They walk door-to-door offering great deals on recovery efforts, take deposits from unwitting homeowners and then leave town — most often without completing any work at all.

Crozier-McKee offered the following tips to help avoid the storm chasers:

• Do your research. Check BBB before you hire a contractor and avoid businesses who come to your door with a "good deal." Check out our online BBB Business Reviews to see ratings and business history records.

• Get it in writing. Request bids from three different contractors that include costs, timelines and warranty information. Remember, the lowest bid doesn't guarantee the best deal.

• Check licensing and credentials.

• Check with your municipality to determine if inspections, permits or licensing is required. Contact Service Alberta for information on required provincial licensing. If the contractor can't prove his qualifications, walk away.

• Beware of upfront fees. If a contractor or repairman request full payment upfront, it could be a red flag.

• Ask about insurance. Although contractors are not required by law to carry liability insurance, it could mean you could be liable for damage to you or your neighbour's property. Also find out what your homeowner's insurance will and won't cover.

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