3OYS: 'Storm chasers' only chase your money

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Storm chasing actually has two different meanings. There’s the traditional one where weather experts literally chase storms, but there's another storm chaser which homeowners and consumers need to know about; these are the guys who wait for storm damage to happen and then pounce.

From New River to other communities across the Valley, it's been quite a summer for monsoon 2014.

The storms often leave behind quite a bit of damage, and that's when so-called storm chasers seem to come out of nowhere and offer to help you in some way.

These storm chasers pose as roofers or some kind of home-repair company, and they usually announce themselves with a knock at your door and then offer to do home repairs.

"It does happen quite a bit," said Phoenix Fire Capt. Benjamin Santillan.

He was at Phoenix Fire Station 57 where the City of Phoenix, Maricopa County and The Red Cross set up a temporary recovery information center. Volunteers provided services and information to flood victims, but they also warned folks about those unscrupulous storm chasers.

"It’s a time that people do take advantage of other people because they no longer think with their hearts," Santillan said. "They're thinking, 'How much money can I put into my pocket?' "

And in fact, one woman actually showed up at the fire house after an unlicensed contractor came to her front door.

"They were going to move some debris for her, but they needed money upfront," Santillan said. "And so she had paid them and nothing had gotten done, and this happened to her twice and she was out close to a thousand dollars."

These scams are so prevalent that the Arizona Registrar of Contractors issued a warning recently saying that consumers should use caution when hiring out work after a storm.

The agency suggests that homeowners make sure the contractor is licensed with the contracting board, which gives you protection if you're ripped off or their workmanship is shoddy.

Also, never pay in cash in advance because it's too easy for the storm chaser to take your money and take off.

Finally, don't make a decision to hire someone in a rush. Think things out.
Scott Butler is a homeowner who stopped by the center looking for information on what to watch out for.

His advice? "I’d be really, really careful because there are always people that'll take advantage of people that have suffered through a disaster, a loss of their property."

For more information about avoiding these scams, visit the Arizona Registrar of Contractors website. For details about the recovery information center, visit the City of Phoenix website.

A flood recovery information center is also being set up for New River residents. It will be open Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Daisy Mountain Fire Station No. 141. The station is at 43814 N. New River Rd.