MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin consumer protection officials are warning victims of recent flooding to be wary of predatory contractors who use low-quality material or fail to finish repair work.
Transient contractors look to take advantage of homeowners affected by flooding or other natural disasters, Lara Sutherlin, a division administrator for the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, told Wisconsin Public Radio.
Predatory contractors, often called ” storm chasers, ” offer to conduct repair work faster and at a lower cost, but will use low-grade material or leave before completing the job, Sutherlin said. Scammers often prey on the most vulnerable residents, such as the elderly, she said.
” (Seniors) often are more isolated and susceptible to high pressure sales tactics and promises of remediating harm immediately, ” Sutherlin said. ” And they can often be more susceptible to this notion that `if you don’t do this right now, all these other horrible things will befall you. ” ‘
The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin gets reports of scams after every weather-related disaster, said Lisa Schiller, the bureau’s investigations director.
” The complaint from year to year is that the consumer makes a payment and then later doesn’t know who they hired. The company doesn’t produce any information about themselves, business cards or brochures, ” she said. ” There’s no way that we or probably any agency can assist them in trying to get their money back. ”
Homeowners should call their insurance agency and take photos of storm damage before seeking local contractors, Schiller said. Residents can also call the bureau or go online to verify if a contractor is reputable and see if there are any consumer complaints filed against them.
” Consumers often think with their heart and not so much with their head, ” Schiller said. ” They’re feeling very vulnerable and they want to get the repairs made as soon as possible. ”