PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Most families have a safety plan to follow when severe weather strikes. But when the sky clears and cleanup begins, don’t let your guard down.

Shady contractors often travel from state to state looking for vulnerable homeowners in desperate need of repair help.

Toppled trees, scattered shingles, broken windows. You see the damage left behind by severe weather and feel overwhelmed. Storm-chasing scammers see that damage and feel hopeful — it’s an opportunity to swindle you. While many companies responding to help with storm cleanup and repairs have good intentions and do good work, be on alert.

A lot of times, they have taken money and didn’t do the work, they did shoddy work or they are not standing behind it after the work is done. Unscrupulous contractors swoop into storm-damaged neighborhoods within days of severe weather, going door-to-door.

When it comes to storm season, the worst stories we hear about are times when someone had storm damage and gets taken advantage of by a contractor. It’s important to understand who you are working with. You don’t want to make a situation worse.

Once you’ve had a problem — had a storm come through, have tree damage — make sure you assess it and do the same research you would when you are hiring a company under any circumstances.

Watch for whether the company is local, if they have marked trucks and vehicles and a local phone number because a lot of these projects that you are having done, such as roofing, are things you need to last a long time. It might come with a warranty, as well. You want a company that is going to stand behind that work.

These contractors often try to strong-arm homeowners into signing a contract on the spot for a “discount.” Angie’s List says a deal today should be a deal tomorrow. Another red flag? Companies that demand full payment upfront.

It’s also important to understand what your insurance policy covers even before a storm hits.

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