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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Hiring a Contractor After Storm Damage

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When summer storms and heavy rains inflict damage on vehicles, homes, businesses, and other property, Better Business Bureau warns consumers to be on the lookout for unscrupulous storm-chasing contractors seeking to cash in on the destruction. Fly-by-night contractors often go door-to-door after storms, offering to help victims clear debris or patch up homes.

After past storms, BBB has taken complaints about contractors who took deposits from consumers and did little or no work. Some couldn’t be reached when consumers wanted refunds or were dissatisfied with the repairs.

Here are some tips to consider when hiring contractors for emergency work. Call your insurance company first. Contact your insurance company to determine what coverage will be provided and if there are any restrictions or conditions you need to follow before finalizing a contract with a repair service.

Research the company’s track record. You can search for a contractor’s BBB Business Profile at bbb.org to learn if it’s a BBB Accredited Business, get free information on its history of complaints, and read Customer Reviews. Also ask for local references and speak with those customers about their experience and the quality of work.

Ask for multiple quotes. You should shop around and get quotes from different businesses. Make sure all bids consider the same set of criteria. Remember that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best bid; if one bid is significantly lower than the others, the contractor may be cutting corners or may not understand your work requirements.

Get it in writing. Request a detailed, written contract. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and make sure you read and understand it before signing. Water damage requires extra considerations. If you have water damage, be sure that any remediation work addresses the root of the problem -- that is, where water is coming in during periods of heavy rain -- and not just the water that was left behind.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.