When an extreme weather event causes extensive damage over a wide area, local businesses such as roofers, HVAC repairs, tree services and contractors can be overwhelmed with surge of work that needs to be started and finished as quickly as possible. This opens a window of opportunity for unscrupulous businesses, referred to as storm chasers, which come into devastated areas to pick up the work that local contractors can’t get to. If you are unfortunate enough to live in an area that suffers wide spread damage due to a natural disaster, be prepared for a knock on the door from a storm chaser attempting to separate you from your money at a time when you might be very vulnerable.

Here’s what to expect:

1) A pushy sales pitch that demands action on the spot – Storm chasers see the elderly as prime targets, especially if they aren’t able to get around well, but aggressive sales tactics are common across all age groups. The vulnerability of dealing with damaged property, combined with threats that help will not be available for days or weeks if a contract isn’t signed immediately, can push victims into deals that are overpriced, include inferior materials or end up with the contractor skipping town before the job is started.

2) Promises that with all the work going on in the area you’ll get a great deal – A key part of these aggressive sales pitches is that the contractor will promise big savings by being able to use excess materials from other jobs. Even if this promise is true, it’s hard to really know what you’re getting in terms of the products being used and it’s unlikely that you’ll be protected by the standard materials warranty. In many cases, however, storm chasers will use scrap and remnants to ensure a big profit on materials.

3) Demands for a hefty amount of cash up front – This is the “sweet spot” for storm chasers, and there’s a good chance you’ll be chasing them to get your money back when they don’t show up to do the job. If the contractor is from out of town or has a suspicious address, don’t even think about making a down payment unless the materials are dropped. However, the best solution is to work with a longtime local roofing contractor that isn’t going anywhere.

Storm chasers may also offer to pay the insurance deductible, which is illegal, or create more damage on the roof to inflate their estimate. In any case, your best chance of getting your roof fixed right is to work with a roofing company that has been doing quality work in your area for a long time.