COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Heavy rains, strong winds or tornadoes can all do serious damage to your home. But when it comes to clean-up, some so-called “contractors” can do serious damage to your wallet.

The Better Business Bureau calls them storm chasers — companies or out-of-town contractors who follow severe weather to collect cash from vulnerable homeowners, then move on before the job’s done.

How can you tell the difference between a legitimate business and a scammer when severe weather strikes?

  • Don’t agree to anything before you do your research. It may take some time, but you should never give into urgent, high-pressure sales tactics. 
  • Look up the name of the company, check out reviews and references. Then, if you like what you see, call them yourself.

“The best thing you can do is to initiate your own contacts,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who knows a thing or two about scams, as well as contractors who may lack the proper licensing, offer quick but low-quality fixes, or make big promises that fall flat.

“Sometimes these people are just bad businesspeople, they’re not necessarily thieves,” Yost said.

Scams, fraud, or just bad business practices — whatever the intention, if you’re a victim, Yost said you should report it to his office.

“Because we regularly take these folks to court, we often can help to get restitution, and often get a court order telling these people not to do it anymore,” said Yost.

If you need help with cleaning up but don’t know where to start, check with your insurance company. If you’re covered, they can provide suggestions for contractors and help you when it comes to moving forward with a signed contract.