Better Business Bureau warns about home repair scams following severe weather

DESOTO COUNTY, Miss. — The governor of Mississippi declared a state of emergency Saturday after severe weather tore through the area.

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The state emergency management agency said Saturday’s storm damaged more than 200 homes.

Many of those home owners will have to be on guard for thieves looking looking to take advantage of the darkness.

The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South warned homeowners to be ready for shady contractors to offer to fix the damage.

According to the sheriff, deputies will be patrolling the damaged areas to deter looters.

Saturday’s storm left Jay Campbell’s home in shambles.

“It pretty much picked the house up and shifted it, crack in the walls and shattered the windows,” Campbell told FOX13.

As if the repair work isn’t daunting enough, now Campbell has to worry about looters.

“We have heard people getting looted the first day after the storm hit. They are just lowlifes,” said Campbell.

RELATED: PHOTOS: Significant damage being reported after storms rip through the area

Randy Hutchinson, President of the Better Business Bureau Mid-South, said people need to be careful when looking for help with repairs.

“Folks need to be wary of someone who knocks on their door unsolicited offering to help them," Hutchinson told FOX13.

Hutchinson referred to these scammers as “storm chasers.” He said they’re independent and often unreliable contractors who travel from state to state after a disaster.

“Generally unlicensed, want you to pay upfront in cash. May or may not even do the job,” said Hutchinson.

Hutchinson said it’s smart to step back for a moment and call your insurance company to find out what is covered.

Then, go to the BBB website to find a contractor with a good rating.

“We can provide you a roster of better business bureau accredited businesses who are licensed and can do the job,” said Hutchinson.

Once you select a contractor, the BBB recommends getting everything in writing about the scope of the work, the time frame and the type of materials used. Never pay the full amount, just a third of the cost to start.

“Check them out. Don’t panic. Be wary of somebody who just knocks on the door.”

Campbell said he has friends and other neighbors helping in the clean up, and removing storm debris and said he’s ready to tell suspicious contractors to get lost until they can find a contractor they can trust.

“If they offered to do that I would tell them to keep on stepping. We got enough volunteers helping out.”