Tell storm-chasing scam contractors to get lost

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The tree that slashed right through their pantry and hallway was the injury.

The scam contractor who rode up afterward--in the only pickup truck on Dempster Avenue in Elliston Heights, South Memphis that wasn't covered in tree limbs--was the insult to Jacqueline Jones' family.

"He came over and was putting out his cards and assessing and quoting high prices to cut these trees and things," Jones said.

The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South offered these tips when you have property damage and a storm-chaser solicits you:

·        Contractors doing work between $3,000 and $24,999 in Shelby County must hold a valid Tennessee Home Improvement license. Jobs over $25,000 require a valid General Contractor’s license from the state. If your repair work totals more than $3,000, ask for proof of the business’s Home Improvement or Contractor’s license, then verify that information at

·        Be wary of door-to-door workers who show up unsolicited offering to make repairs. This includes companies offering to remove fallen trees and branches. Improper removal of fallen trees could cause further damage to your home. Just because someone has a chainsaw doesn’t mean they know how to properly remove a fallen tree.

·        Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid acting in haste. Don't be pressured into signing a contract or paying for repairs up front to get on someone’s schedule.

·        Make temporary repairs, such as tarping the hole in your roof, to prevent further damage until a reputable contractor can make permanent repairs. Remember that you may have to wait for a reputable company to get to your repairs.

·        Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Keep copies of receipts for emergency repairs for reimbursement later.

·        Take time to shop around for reputable contractors. Get at least three estimates and check out contractors with BBB at or by calling 901-759-1300 or 800-222-8754.

·        BBB can provide you a list of reputable BBB Accredited Businesses to choose from, including roofers, tree removal companies, fence companies, and other home repair businesses at or by calling 901-759-1300 or 800-222-8754.

·        Get everything in writing. The written agreement should outline the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Review it carefully before signing. Vague clauses such as “repair roof” are invitations for abuse.

·        Never pay the full amount of repairs in advance. BBB and the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors advises that you pay no more than 30 percent up front. Pay with a credit card if possible, which offers you more protection if the work is not completed as specified.

·        Read more BBB tips regarding home improvement scams at

·        Report scam attempts to 

The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance offered these tips:

Insurance Tips

  • File your claim as soon as possible. Call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information. Your policy may require that you make the notification within a certain time frame.
  • Be sure you cooperate fully with the insurance company. Ask what documents, forms, and data you will need to file a claim. Keep a diary of all conversations with insurance companies, creditors, or relief agencies.
  • Be certain to give your insurance company all the information they need. Incorrect or incomplete information will only cause a delay in processing your claim.
  • If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses.
  • Take photographs/video of any damage.
  • Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (cover broken windows, leaking roofs, and damaged walls). Don’t have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. Be prepared to provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made prior to the damage.
  • Maintain any damaged personal property for the adjuster to inspect.
  • Ask the adjuster for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
  • Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your policy.
  • To file a complaint, visit us online or call (800) 342-4029 or (615) 741-2218.

Hiring Contractors:

  • To protect yourself, only hire licensed contractors. Visit to ensure that a contractor is properly licensed to work in the State of Tennessee. Different types of work or work with a higher cost may require different licensure. (Learn more about Tennessee contracting laws here.)
  • Get several bids. It’s best to get at least three bids and check references.
  • Get a written contract that includes the company’s name, address, and telephone number. The contract should also include an anticipated start and completion date.
  • Never pay more than one-third down and do not let the payments get ahead of the work.
  • Make sure the contractor is insured to cover workers’ compensation, damage and general liability insurance.
  • When hiring a contractor, avoid:
    • A person going door-to-door selling their services.
    • A person who offers services for a short time only, which makes consumers feel rushed and unable to research the contractor.
    • Unmarked trucks or vans, or a refusal or reluctance to set out complete and specific contract terms in writing.
    • Being pressured to pay for more than half of the cost upfront.

Ultimately, Jones and her family blew off the contractor. They're awaiting an insurance adjuster instead of buying into a fly-by-night scam contractor.

"We couldn't do anything to get back on our feet if we bought into these people and their scams," she said.

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