BBB warns of tornado scammers: 'They're like vultures'

KENTWOOD, Mich. (WZZM) -- The Better Business Bureau says scam artists are trying to take advantage of people affected by the storm.

Residents are describing them as vultures, and WZZM 13 is looking into why residents should beware of strangers knocking at their door.

"Nearly everyday we'll get knocks on the door and it's people doing tree removal," says Mitch Ware, whose home was damaged during the tornado.

"We've had half a dozen people walk right up to us and give us cards," says Dianna Kisner, whose home was damaged during the tornado.

The sea of scattered trees could also have scam artists thinking in terms of green. Often, it starts with a knock on the door, says the Better Business Bureau.

"And, 'I'm here to help you, would you like me to do that for you?' And the gut reaction any of us would have is, 'Yeah,'" says Phil Catlett, president of the Better Business Bureau in Grand Rapids.

The Better Business Bureau says remember to think twice and ask questions. WZZM 13 asked what the red flag is that someone knocking on a door is a fake.

"Number one, their knocking on your door," says Catlett.

Also, experts say to check that they are licensed with the state. In Kentwood, contractors need a permit to knock door to door.

"You can say, 'Where are you from? Give me your card, and I'm going to call the city of Kentwood to see if you can even be doing door to door solicitations in our neighborhood,'" says Catlett.

The Better Business Bureau says most legitimate cleanup companies should be busy doing work, not knocking on doors.

"If you call the folks that are legitimate, you have to get in line. Those are the ones you want to hire," says Ware.

No one could stop the destruction of the tornado, but residents can protect themselves from a second round of problems.

"They're like vultures walking through these neighborhoods, taking advantage of people who are traumatized," says Ware.

"It's upsetting. You want to believe that most people are out there to help, and some people just aren't," says Kisner.

The Better Business Bureau also says to get at least three bids. If you pay upfront, they say to take notes on what you're paying for. Experts say it's typically best to hire someone locally, because many of the scam artists are from out of state.


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