How to Avoid Storm Scams

What Is a Storm Chaser?

A storm chaser is someone who chases after big storms, especially tornadoes and hurricanes. Generally, these people are meteorological professionals who record information or take photographs, but sometimes they’re just regular Joes who want to see a tornado up close.

In the context of roofing, however, a storm chaser is an unscrupulous person who follows the trail that a destructive storm has left in order to scam homeowners into hiring them to fix the hail, rain or tornado damage. They are not licensed or insured and and not interested in actually providing quality work; they simply take advantage of vulnerable homeowners, do the minimal amount of work possible, and then disappear with your money.

Signs of a Storm Chaser 

We know that there is nothing worse than a leaky or damaged roof, so it makes sense that when a big storm hits your house your first thought is to get it fixed and as quickly as possible. And if a kindly “roofing contractor” shows up at your home to help you, all the better, right? 

So how do you know if the guy or gal knocking on your door is a real contractor (who legitimately canvas neighborhoods) or a scammer? Here are some signs you should look out for:

  • They only show up after a big storm in your community that has been broadcast on the local news or by the Weather Bureau.
  • They’re usually pretty aggressive about getting you to sign a contract with them and may even scare you into believing the worst about the damage to your roof.
  • They offer great deals – sometimes by promising low prices because they’ll use extra material from other jobs in the neighborhood (which means you won’t get the standard materials warranty). 
  • They demand a huge cash advance on the total bill before they get to work, and often they will never return to do the repairs or replacement. 
  • They are located out of town or have a suspicious-looking address (like a post office box).
  • They put on a cheap new roof but don’t address other issues caused by the storm or that your home may have already had because they’re simply not interested in helping you.
  • They don’t have a license.
  • They aren’t insured. Or they might pay your insurance deductible (which is illegal) to gain your trust.

How to Avoid Storm Chasers

Once you’re familiar with the signs of a storm chaser, you’ll feel much more confident about turning them away when they show up on your doorstep. Here are the best ways to deal with one of these guys:

  • Ask to see their insurance.
  • Ask for their roofer’s license and then call your local building department or licensing agency to verify it.
  • Ask them about their other customers in your neighborhood and check out the work they claim to have done.
  • Ask to set an appointment at their office so you can check it out or even see if it’s a real address.
  • Take a look at their vehicle’s license plates – out of state plates are a dead giveaway.
  • Never sign a contract on the spot – tell the “contractor” that you’ll think about it and check them out (and if they try to pressure or threaten you to sign before it’s “too late,” close the door).
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the storm chaser has lots of complaints filed against them – or if they’re even listed.

The bottom line to protect yourself from storm chasers and other roofing scammers is to take the matter into your own hands and do a little research. Don’t let anyone – legitimate or not – pressure you into making such a big and important decision on the spot.

A good solution is always to go with a local roofing contractor who has been in business for a substantial length of time, has a real office, and maintains professional website with plenty of testimonials from previous customers.