There are storm chasers -- meteorologists and scientists who follow severe weather in order to gain a better understanding of Mother Nature's power -- and then there are "storm chasers," -- criminals who prey on unsuspecting home and business owners when they most need a helping hand.
Madigan said the "storm chasers" -- the nefarious variety -- use situations like Sunday's storms to pressure people into making impulsive and often expensive decisions about cleanup and construction work.
Her office offered the following tips:
- Be wary of contractors who go door to door to offer repair services. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, whenever possible, use established local contractors.
- Call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud Hotline to check out a contractor and to learn if any complaints have been filed against a particular business.
- Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around for the best deal. Get written estimates from multiple contractors, and don’t be rushed into a deal.
- Get all of the terms of a contract in writing, and obtain a copy of the signed contract.
- Never make full payment until all the work has been completed to your satisfaction.
- Never pay in cash.
- Be aware that you have the right to cancel a contract within three business days if you signed it based on the contractor’s visit to your home.
- In the case of disaster repair, you have an additional right to cancel. If your insurance carrier denies coverage, you have the right to cancel the contract within five days of when your insurance carrier denies your coverage.
- Ask to see required state and local permits and licenses. Insurance adjusters and roofers must be licensed by state agencies. If the contractor does not have a required license, or if the name on the license doesn’t match the name on the contractor’s business card or equipment, that should raise a red flag.
Madigan has positioned herself as a fierce consumer advocate. Earlier this year her office filed suit against a Chicago-based home repair company, accusing it of swindling five homeowners out of more than $58,000, including a senior suffering from Alzheimer's.