Pine, Richland residents urged to be wary of storm chasers

Sunday, June 9, 2019 | 12:01 AM


If you live in the area and have gotten phone calls or in-person solicitations for roof repairs following the storms that came through the last week of May, you aren’t alone.

Residents across the area have reported across social media platforms receiving multiple phone calls from companies looking to inspect their roofs for hail and other storm damage, some using high-pressure sales tactics, as well as door-to-door visits.

Some could be local companies, some could be out-of-state companies that travel across the country chasing this type of work, and some could be just plain old scammers looking to take advantage, warns the Better Business Bureau, and it’s important to determine who’s who.

“Definitely be cautious of a contractor who is not registered to do work in the state of Pennsylvania,” advised Caitlin Driscoll, public relations director for the BBB in Western Pennsylvania. “It’s important to take the time to check with the attorney general’s office, either through their website or by calling, to make sure they have a home improvement contractor’s license through the state of Pennsylvania and are properly registered. Make sure they have insurance and ask to see proof. People can check with the BBB, too, to find out the company’s complaint history over a three-year period and whether the company has responded and resolved the complaints or what the reason is for their rating, from A to F.”

In many of these instances, Driscoll said, companies are from out-of-state and use hail tracking apps or subscription services to learn where in the country damage has occurred. Known as “storm chasers,” they then come to town to capitalize on the abundance of work.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the business isn’t legitimate, Driscoll said, but consumers need to do their due diligence in these situations.

“People really need to know who they’re dealing with before signing any contract or handing over any payment, and be able to recognize the red flags that it could possibly be a scam,” she said.

Beware of anyone asking for all or even half the payment up front, Driscoll said, and avoid paying with cash whenever possible. It should also be a red flag if a contractor is trying to get you to sign any type of document that gives away your rights to your insurance claim or saying that you don’t have to contact insurance because they’ll deal with them directly on your behalf.

Northern Regional Police Department captain John Sicilia said that while they haven’t fielded any complaints about phone calls, they have had a recent increase in solicitation permits.

“If anyone is going door-to-door, they’re required to have a permit,” he said. “We issue the permits after we check and make sure it’s a legitimate business and they should have that permit with them. If a resident asks to see their permit and they can’t provide one, please call us.”