Buchanan County flood victims wary of ‘storm chasers’, BBB warns

ROANOKE, Va. – As if they hadn’t been through enough already, flood victims in Buchanan County are now vulnerable to scammers in their area, according to the BBB.

On Thursday, the Better Business Bureau serving Western VA released a statement warning Buchanan County flood victims of people seeking to take advantage of those in need of assistance after Tuesday’s storms.

These people are called “storm chasers,” the BBB said, and they have been known to take money from disaster victims and do shoddy work, or simply never return after payment.

The BBB said you can take these steps to reduce the risk of being scammed following a natural disaster:

  • Visit BBB.org for reliable information and lists of BBB accredited businesses by industry and business reviews you can trust on local businesses.
  • Check that your contractor is duly licensed by the Council for Professional and Occupational Regulation of Contractors.

  • Verify that contractors must obtain a permit by contacting your local township or municipality.

  • Get everything in writing. Representations and agreements that are clearly written, detailed and broken down into separate items are a good sign that the contractor has prepared an accurate estimate.

  • Don’t pay in full or agree to the terms of a payment schedule, but never pay for the entire job upfront. Never make final payment or sign a final release until you are satisfied with the work done.

And if you want to lend a hand or donate to the victims, the BBB said you can follow these steps to do so safely:

  • Search for the organization on Give.org for reliable charity information and listings of charities that meet the 20 BBB standards for charities.
  • Be careful when donating online and you should always go directly to the charity’s website.

  • Beware of claims that 100% of donations will help relief victims.

  • Find out if the charity has a presence on the ground in the affected areas, as unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to bring in new aid workers to help quickly. See if the charity’s website clearly outlines what it can do to meet the immediate needs of those affected.

  • In-kind collections of food and clothing may not be the fastest way to help those in need unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to distribute this aid properly. Ask the charity about its transportation and distribution plans.

To learn how you can help the Buchanan County community, read this article.

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