Scam artists harming ability for legitimate contractors to do their jobs

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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — After a devastating storm hits and leaves behind a path of destruction, swindlers are often eager to pounce.

People who work on repairing homes after storm damage say scammers are harming their ability to do their jobs.

"It dramatically affects us," Brandon Madden said.

Madden owns Aftermath Storm Consultants in Barboursville and says scammers damage the credibility of those legitimately trying to do the work.

"Trust is a huge thing," Madden said.

Madden says 90 percent of their business comes from going door to door, but con artists have made it much harder to earn potential clients' trust.

"We go door to door because that's where families and people are most impacted by a storm," he said.

Madden has tips on how to make sure someone who knocks on your door isn't a fraud.

"The first thing I would look for in particular is ask for a license," he said. "We should be able to provide one at the door immediately."

He says you should also make sure you see a copy of their workers comp insurance and regular business insurance, and check for any type of reference of a previous customer. He says you can also check to see if the person's business has a Facebook page or website.

Scammers also often require money to be paid upfront before the work is completed.

"Scam artists either don't have the right equipment, or they don't have the proper skills to do the work that they're promising to do," Lt. Autumn Davis with the Charleston Police Department told WSAZ after tornadoes touched down in Kanawha County last month.

Experts say you should avoid paying cash, get multiple estimates, and be sure to get a receipt. Also, negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of the job and pay by check. Do not pay with cash. Get any promises in writing and make sure the project is thoroughly described in your contract. If you can, ask a lawyer to review the terms of the written contract before you sign.

Above all, don't be bullied or pressured. Call the police and get a license plate number if a door-to-door contractor won’t take “no” for an answer.