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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > May 2015 > Beware of 'Storm Chasers' after Severe Weather

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Beware of 'Storm Chasers' after Severe Weather

As sure as we will experience severe storms this spring and summer, home repair contractors who have less-than-good intentions are bound to come knocking on our doors. Called “storm chasers,” these scammers pounce on the opportunity to target homeowners in need of cleanup work after bad weather.
Storm chasers may come to Ohio in the spring and winter due to severe damage caused by wind, rain, hail, storms, and tornados. They may offer to install new roofs, remove tree limbs and branches, or even total-home repair.
Often, storm chasers ask for large down payments. After collecting payment, some simply take the money and run, leaving homeowners with no repairs and no money. Then they move on to the next community and repeat their routine.
In a recent case, a storm chaser who stole more than $150,000 from 40 victims in several Ohio counties was sentenced to nearly five years in prison after running an elaborate home improvement scheme taking homeowners’ insurance checks and providing no services in return.
In March 2015, James Twaddle, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, was sentenced to 59 months in prison and was ordered to reimburse his victims in full. Twaddle previously had pleaded guilty to felony charges of attempted engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, grand theft, and theft from the elderly.
Using sophisticated software, Twaddle and his agents identified storm-damaged areas, approached victims at their homes, and encouraged them to request insurance funds for a new roof. After receiving the victims’ insurance checks, Twaddle deposited the money, but no one ever returned to the victims’ homes to perform the promised work. Many of the victims were elderly.
The Union County prosecutor appointed attorneys from the Ohio Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Unit to assist in prosecuting Twaddle.
Although Twaddle’s victims will recover their money, other consumers are not as lucky. That is why scam prevention is so important.
Attorney General DeWine offers the following tips to protect Ohio consumers:
  • Before signing a contract or making a payment, check a company’s reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Do not make a large down payment. Instead, pay in thirds – one-third at the beginning of the job, one-third once half the work is completed to your satisfaction, and one-third when the job is completed.  
  • Avoid paying in cash because it leaves you with less on paper if something goes wrong.
  • Get any verbal promises the contractor makes in writing.
  • Be cautious of contractors who want payment made out to themselves as individuals instead of to their company.
  • Understand that Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act provides consumers with a three-day cancellation period for most contracts signed at their own home, including many home improvement contracts. The law also applies to contracts signed at any location that is not a company’s normal place of business (such as a home improvement show).
  • Look for the red flags of a traveling scam artist. If a contractor claims to have leftover materials from a neighbor’s job, or offers unbelievably low prices, be suspicious.
If you suspect a scam or experience an unfair business practice, report it to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office by calling 800-282-0515, or visiting