COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Lightning, hail, tornadoes and floods cause serious damage to homes and properties, but inclement weather often brings out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help neighbors in need.

Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors and scammers taking advantage of those who have already been victimized.

“This time of year, in particular, and when there’s any kind of severe weather, they’ll come to your door and have a great deal,” said Judy Dollison, president of the Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio.

Dollison calls them “storm chasers.”

“What we find is a lot of times, you never see them again,” Dollison said. “You pay your money, pay a deposit, never see them again, or they start the job but walk away before it’s done.”

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office said consumers continue to file complaints year after year about bad contractors. To make you aware of shady business practices and severe weather scammers, agencies like the Attorney General’s Office, the BBB and the Ohio Department of Insurance are sharing some helpful tips during Contractor Fraud Awareness Week, May 22-26.

Before you hire anyone, call your insurance company to file a claim. They’ll verify if and what repairs need to be made.  

Make sure the contractor you hire is legitimate. Search for the company online, read reviews and ask for references.

And watch for warning signs. A reputable contractor won’t pressure you to make a quick decision and won’t ask you to pay in full upfront.

“Don’t pay up front, don’t pay in full up front,” said Dollison. “Pay along the way, and make sure you have a contract, make sure you understand the terms of the contract.”

If you believe you’ve been scammed or defrauded by a contractor, you can report it to the Ohio Department of Insurance.