Whenever there is a tragedy or disaster, there are always scams that follow.

Many arrests occurred after Hurricane Katrina for fake charities, false claims, Internet pleas, and other con methods.

No matter what major incident has occurred, there are always scam artists out there trying to make a fast buck.

Recently, the region was rocked by hail storms, heavy wind, and even tornadoes. There was considerable damage to cars, homes, structures, and landscapes.

Now signs are going up all over the place by companies offering to assist you with repairs and claims. There are firms going door-to-door wanting to "help" you.

Don't act with haste. Be sure you know who you are dealing with. Don't get scammed.

If you have insurance, contact your insurance company. They'll advise you what to do. Most likely, they'll send an adjuster to analyze the damage.

Be very cautious of firms which might tell you something like: "The insurance company is looking at their own profits. They don't really care about you, the little guy."

It's true that sometimes problems don't get resolved amicably between the insurance company and the claimant, but hiring a stranger who knocks on your door offering to help isn't going to help you.

Does the firm wanting to help you have a good reputation? Are they listed with the Better Business Bureau? Are there consumer complaints against them?

These are all things to check out.

Did the company notify local officials of their presence? Do they have licenses to operate in your community if licenses are required?

In Ohio, there were recent storms. A complaint was that a company offered to inspect roofs. The firm's representatives used coins to put dings in the roof and tell the homeowner it was hail damage.

There have been reports in many areas - so far, none locally - of companies stating there is damage, talking the homeowner into repairs, asking for a deposit, then never returning to do the work. When complaints were filed, the company responded they never said when the work would be done.

Especially if you have valuables in plain sight, don't let strangers offering to do work come traipsing onto your property.

If you have suspected damage and you either have no insurance or you aren't satisfied with the response from your insurance company, check with a local firm. Ask friends and relatives for references. Your municipal building inspector or zoning officer can help with names of local companies that are licensed to do work, and who have good reputations.

Beware of nomadic firms.

Don't become a victim of scams.

If you feel you have become scammed, contact your police department as quickly as you can.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]