CLEVELAND — Wicked weather can bring out the worst in people who try to scam storm victims. We've already seen some of that recently with tornado damage and now with all the flooding in our area, here are the warnings you need to be aware of.
"Everything I worked so hard for…gone…in the blink of an eye,” said Elaine Pierce from Barberton. She woke up to several feet of water in her basement after recent storms. “I broke down in tears. I cried all day. It hurts still."
It hurts because she has 6 kids and many of their toys are in the basement. Bicycles are waterlogged. A lot of her clothes and a new washing machine are ruined. And after all of this, she and others in her flooded neighborhood can be targets by storm-chasing scammers. “It's like disappointing. They take from the poor. It's sad,” said Pierce in a solemn tone.
"Scammers often take us off-guard when we are very vulnerable,” said Sue McConnell, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Greater Cleveland.
She poured over the facts of storm damage scams. “Do not provide any personal information, credit card numbers or make any snap decisions,” McConnell said.
We found recent warnings given by the Shelby Police Department about crooks trying to take advantage of tornado victims. Same thing near Dayton when storms did significant damage. The Ohio Attorney General's Office issued a recent alert. It included people who show up at your house promising to help.
"If somebody is having you sign a contract at your door…they go door-to-door, you have three days to cancel that...three business days. So, keep that in mind,” said McConnell.
When it comes to contractors, don't make any large payments up-front. The BBB said one-third of the contract is fair, but never pay in cash. If a contractor wants to do an inspection, be at your home when he or she is there. "Unscrupulous contractors have been known to cause damage to your home,” said McConnell. “So, you don't want to let them just have free reign of your property when you're not there."
If you get phone calls saying they're from a charity that helps storm victims, scrutinize the caller. “Get information on who's calling you. Ask them to send you something in writing…do your research and you call them back if you think this is something you want to do," McConnell said.
Pierce just wants some real help for her and her kids to be back home again. "It's just sad for them to not be able to stay where they live at,” said Pierce. “Where they supposed to sleep at."
If you have questions about charities claiming to help people, here’s a BBB search and a search through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office of non-profits.
And remember you can only get flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program through an agent. Most homeowners’ standard policies don't cover flooding.