This year’s active hurricane and fire seasons have caused billions of damage in the United States and fueled fears of contractors preying on shell-shocked survivors. The national Better Business Bureau says whether your house has been damaged by a hurricane, fire, flooding or any other disaster, don’t fall prey to “storm chasing” contractors out for your business. Follow these steps to protect yourself:

  • Beware of contractors who claim to be insurance claim specialists and ask you to sign an agreement to allow them to contact your insurance company for repair approval, the BBB says. Don’t let a business trick you into signing a work estimate without reading the fine print, otherwise, you could be committing yourself to the contractor if your insurance claim is OK’d.
  • Ask for identification and contact the company directly with concerns. Check if the contractor’s vehicle has signs on it with the business name, phone number and license plates for your state.
  • Try to get at least three quotes from contractors, and insist payment be made to the company, not an individual. Resist high-pressure sales tactics to get you to hire the contractor on the spot.
  • Get a written contract that specifies price, scope of work, amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor and a timeframe. Remember, don’t take their word for it.
  • Keep your cash in your pocket. Question any contractor who requires full or a sizeable down payment before work is to start. And try to pay by credit card because it could give you added protection if there’s a problem.

Finally, if you hire an uninsured and unlicensed contractor and a there’s an injury while work is being done, you could be liable for workers compensation benefits. So, check before you hire!