Winter Storm Elliott: How to avoid clean-up and repair scams as you get back to business

Weather emergencies don’t take a winter vacation. Scammers don’t either. Just like you, they’re watching the weather reports and preparing for storms – and they’re counting on catching you unawares.

Winter Storm Elliott affected the U.S. from coast to coast. The storm’s chilling effects from record cold and snow to the loss of electricity from high winds downing trees and power lines, were felt across much of the nation.

If your business has been affected by Elliott or another weather event, here’s some advice for hiring a contractor or restoration company to help with clean-up and repairs:

  • Get recommendations from people you know and trust.
  • Ask contractors for IDs, licenses, proof of insurance, and references before paying for services. 
  • Search online for the company’s name with words like “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Pay by credit card or check if possible, or checks – but never with cash, gift cards, or through wire transfer companies like Western Union or MoneyGram. And only pay in full after the work is done and you’re satisfied with it.
  • Get a contract. Never rely on handshake deals. Make sure all promises are in writing and that you understand what you’re signing.

To learn more about ways to prepare for, deal with, and recover from a weather emergency – at work and at home – visit Small Business Administration also has advice for businesses about preparing for all kinds of emergencies, and the Department of Homeland Security’s “Ready” initiative has toolkits for business in English and Spanish.

If you suspect a scam, report it to the FTC at