Better Business Bureau warns about storm-chasing scammers

CBC

As many rush to help those in affected by flooding in southern Alberta, another group of people are doing their best to take advantage of the situation.

Known as “storm chasers,” these individuals travel from disaster to disaster, promising quick home repairs — but often disappear before the work is done, or even started.

"It's one or two guys in a truck, just swooping in to take your money,’ said Ron Mycholuk with the Better Business Bureau.

Often, the scammers will take a look at the damage, give an estimate and ask for a portion of the cost of repairs up front, he said. And once they get the cash, they are gone.

“And as devastated as you felt when your home was flooded — it's just going to pile on," he added.

Mycholuk says he’s seen storm chasers emerge after almost every kind of disaster, including after the fires in Slave Lake.

“It’s the lowest of the low, but it’s a way for people with very little skills and very little work to make a lot of money.”

This time, he says, the Better Business Bureau wants Albertans to be prepared.

“To the victims of flood we say: 'Be careful.' Not only personally and with your families, but as you rebuild now you're going to want to be careful on who you trust with your money and your home.”

He is encouraging flood victims to research contractors before hiring anyone. This can be as simple as asking friends and family for a recommendation — or by checking with Service Alberta or the Better Business Bureau.

"The more information you can gather before you hand over money or sign any contract, the better you'll be able to protect yourself."

Speaking Sunday, Premier Alison Redford also warned Albertans about the danger of storm chasers, and promised the province would prosecute anyone found scamming flood victims.

“We know that there's serious risk of consumer fraud, and we're going to take action to protect people from price gouging and fly-by-night operators,” she said.

“There are penalties under legislation and we will prosecute anyone who takes advantage of flood victims for personal gain.”

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