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Editorial: Thunder, lightning, illegal lightening of the pocket

Flash, crash, bang, boom. Several severe thunderstorms already have swept across the RiverTown region, leaving debris in yards and on roofs and on cars. This on top of flooding. Sigh.

Summer 2019 no doubt has more in store, and unfortunately some people may get hit especially hard — first, courtesy of Mother Nature and second, courtesy of the unscrupulous.

You can't do much about the first, although you can do your best to be prepared.

You can do something about those who prey on those hit by catastrophe, however, and ensure you aren't one of them. Being systematic, sensible and strong isn't easy in a stressful time, but you can do it. When damage hits, beware the scammers and fly-by-night contractors.

The Better Business Bureau and local insurance agents recommend that consumers who need storm repair services take a measured approach.

Step 1: Contact with your insurance company. Your damage may be covered, and your insurance company may have contractors to recommend — or at least may help you vet those contractors. Your agent also may be willing to accompany a contractor on an inspection.

Step 2: Do your research. Check with state and local government agencies to ensure a contractor is licensed. Ask friends and neighbors about their experiences with contractors.

Don't believe everything you read online. Is the site independent? At BBB.org, for example, business profiles often include verified experiences posted by consumers.

Step 3: Get several quotes. You have money on the line. Be extra wary of quotes regarding places in your home you cannot see.

Step 4: Beware of "storm chasers" — those out-of-town contractors who descend on regions hit by natural disasters. They won't be here next year if work proves faulty or is left incomplete. The local contractors have reputations on the line — and know they'll likely bump into them at the grocery store, a place of worship or the library.

Step 5: Stay composed and resist high-pressure sales tactics. Be proactive in seeking a contractor and not reactive to sales calls or door-to-door pitches.

Sept 6: Once you select a contractor, get an invoice and pay the contractor directly. The BBB suggests doing so with a credit card, if possible, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment. Don't sign any documents that give the contractor rights to your insurance.

Finally, remember that you are responsible for any insurance deductible. It's the law. You don't need to compound the misery of storm damage by being both a victim and a deadbeat.

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