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Avoiding contractor scams: Best practices

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Storm season is here and there is another threat besides Mother Nature's wrath.

Shady contractors often make the rounds in Oklahoma towns that are devastated by tornadoes or severe weather.

Experts are urging victims to be aware of red flags when hiring someone to make repairs to your roof or home.

These scammers will act like high-pressure salesmen, wanting money up front for a job they're ready to do right now.

Here's how one couple in Norman reacted after contractors showed up only minutes after last Friday's tornado.

"How dare you come and try to profit off of our loss," Stacie Summers said.

It's easy to understand why she and her husband, Bob, were a little upset.

Not long after their roof ended up impaled on a tree, their porch crumbled and their air ducts started hanging down from a caved-in ceiling, they were approached by contractors.

"I told him, hey, come back tomorrow," Bob recalls. "Let things kind of settle down. I can't believe you're already out here."

How does Stacie describe them?

"Vultures," she said. "That was the first word that came to my mind. Vultures."

Michelle Carbone, owner of Michelle's Destinations Unlimited, which was also damaged by that tornado, had a similar description.

"Three roofers came by, like, not 30 minutes after it hit," she recalled. "They're like 'hey, here's our card!' I'm like wow, the vultures are circling."

"It makes our job tougher," Bob Maupin said, with Salazar Roofing and Construction.

Salazar is repairing a church roof in Norman.

He said to check with the Better Business Bureau for reputable companies.

Make sure they're local.

As far as payment...

"Do not give any money up front, that's absurd," Maupin said. "People want to put a sign in your yard, then offer to pay your deductible. That's not a good thing to do."

The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office advises victims beware of door-to-door solicitations.

  • Obtain at least three written estimates.
  • Demand a written contract.
  • Ask for a license or registration.
  • Verify the contractor's information.

Bob and Stacie are having contractors arrive this weekend to assess the damage to get it right the first time.

"Trust your first instinct," Stacie said.

"If you feel uncomfortable, then that means there's something wrong."

Salazar Roofing also recommends looking at a contractor's vehicle tag and checking the phone book to see if they're local.
Your insurance company should be able to recommend contractors as well.

For more on the Oklahoma Attorney General's Disaster Scam Prevention tips, log on to thier website here.