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When natural disasters strike

Whether you were recently affected by the hurricane that hit the East coast or live in Minnesota during peak tornado season... beware of “storm chaser” scams.

If a big storm causes any sort of damage to your property, you have a lot to deal with. Insurance matters, cleanup, repairs and rebuilding can be extremely stressful. You may reach a point when you just want everything taken care of immediately... but it pays to be careful with your decisions during this time, as “storm chaser” scammers may be out to prey on your vulnerable state.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers in disaster-prone areas to be wary of fly-by-night repair businesses. Here are some tips to avoid storm chaser scams.

• Beware of high-pressure sales tactics. Storm chasers may go door-to-door to solicit work in unmarked trucks. They tend to make big promises and ask for full payment upfront.

• Research contractors. Get local recommendations from family and friends, or use the BBB’s Accredited Business Locator at to find trustworthy contractors in your area. Also check contractor websites. If you can’t validate the company online, you may want to avoid it.

• Ask important questions. Does the contractor meet all state and local requirements, including being licensed, insured and bonded? Are references from recent jobs available? Will the contractor be subcontracting the job or relying on its own employees?

• Seek at least three bids for comparison. Watch out for low-ball estimates that could balloon once the job is in progress.

• Get everything in writing. The contract should explain the full scope of work, including cleanup and waste disposal. Make sure it includes payment terms, estimated price of materials and labor, and any warranties or guarantees.

Don’t let your finances get hit. At Star Choice Credit Union, we want to help keep your finances secure. Whether it’s helping you save money, providing home improvement loans or giving you convenient access to pay bills and look at your accounts, we can help you weather storms and enjoy brighter days.

To learn more, stop by, call or visit us online.

*When you see the damage and hardship major storms can cause, it's natural to want to help those in need. Before giving money, make sure the charity seeking donations is legitimate as well as equipped and experienced to provide assistance. You can research charities through the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.