Ottawa-area residents still dealing with the fallout from last month’s powerful and deadly storm have a new threat to contend with: scammers.

The Better Business Bureau issued a warning Wednesday that people affected by the May 21 derecho should beware of ‘storm chasers’ and out-of-town contractors soliciting business.

“When a storm passes through a region and wreaks havoc, some people are going to try to take advantage of homeowners who have seen damage on their property,” bureau spokesperson Jessie St-Cyr told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Andrew Pinsent.

St-Cyr said the bureau doesn’t have any reports of attempted scams in the Ottawa area after the recent storm, but they have seen it in the past.

“Right now it might be tempting for someone who has damaged on their roof, let’s say, to hire the first contractor who knocks at the door,” she said.

That’s because with the labour shortage and supply chains, wait times for roofers and other contractors are longer than usual.

However, people should resist that urge to hire someone on the spot, she said.

The bureau says the following five things are red flags to watch out for when hiring someone to do repair work on your property:

  • Contractor asks to be paid in cash only
  • A contractor claims they found major damage of hard-to-reach spots, but isn’t showing you pictures of the damage
  • The contractor conveys a sense of urgency
  • The contractor tells you they will cover the cost of your insurance deductibles
  • The company vehicle isn’t local

There are several ways victims of natural disasters can avoid being scammed by opportunistic contractors. The bureau issued the following tips:

Contact your insurance company: Ask about your policy coverage, and make sure to save all receipts.

Do your research: Find businesses you can trust through the Better Business Bureau, your insurance company or friends and relatives.

Resist high-pressure sales: You should never feel forced to make a hasty decision to choose an unknown contractor.

Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors: Many municipalities require a permit for salespeople to go door-to-door.

Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors: Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly. Don’t sign any documents that give contractors rights to your insurance claims.