Damage from the June 29 storm - a derecho that raced from Indiana to the Atlantic Seaboard - was severe and widespread in the Mid-Ohio Valley. With thousands of residents without power for many days, many are just now getting the opportunity to assess the property damage caused by the storm.
Extensive damage from the wind, fallen trees and subsequent calamities will force many homeowners to look for a contractor in the coming weeks to make repairs on homes, roofs, garages or just to remove fallen trees and limbs on their property.
With that need, residents should also prepare for another storm: the influx of dishonest, fly-by-night scammers posing as contractors who have no intention of making good for what you pay them.
Law enforcement in both West Virginia and Ohio already have issued warnings to people.
Unfortunately, senior citizens are often targeted by these scam artists, but even people who believe they are handling storm repair contractors prudently sometimes fall victim to crooked operators.
One thing that should immediately raise the red flag of suspicion is if someone claiming to be a contractor shows up without having been contacted. Some of these unscrupulous operators say they have completed a job in the area and have leftover building material that will allow them to offer a "special" rate on repairs.
Others may say they have been sent by your insurance company to perform a free inspection of your home. Insurance companies don't operate that way.
The best way to avoid losing money to a crook is to just say no. Dealing with reputable local companies and individuals you are familiar with is the best insurance against falling victim to a swindle.
Other precautions include:
* If you are working with an unfamiliar contractor, always ask for identification and references.
* Don't fall for the old "limited time offer" on a cut-rate price for repairs.
* Never pay the entire bill in advance.
* Beware of empty spaces in a contract. A dishonest individual could later fill in these blank spaces with costly additions.
* If a situation doesn't feel right, do not proceed.
If you feel you have been the victim of a scam, or suspect the person making an offer is not legitimate, do not hesitate to contact local law enforcement agencies. Rest assured, they take it personally when out-of-town criminals use scams against local residents.
The sooner law enforcement is made aware of a problem, the more likely authorities can apprehend the culprit.