The flooding that's swamped so many communities would seem to provide plenty of repair work for people who specialize in flooring and landscaping -- but not necessarily roofing.
According to the Wheat Ridge Police Department, though, roofing scammers are leading the pack when it comes to potentially taking advantage of flooding victims -- and the phenomenon sounds an awful lot like the terrifying attack of the hail-storm chasing roofers we documented in this space last month.
As you'll recall, the crazy hail storm that pummeled parts of southern Jefferson County on August 23 was followed by a lemming-like assault by roofers on places like my Ken-Caryl neighborhood. My front door began collecting fliers like these.....
But that was nothing compared to the entryway of house a block or so away: Were all of the ultra-aggressive sales people who delivered these pitches crooks? Wheat Ridge Police Department spokesman Officer John Romero has his suspicions.
"Nine times out of ten, local businesses aren't going to come to your door," he says.
Romero doesn't dismiss the possibility that some homes sustained roof damage in the storms that led to Front Range flooding: "The rain was heavy, and we did have a lot of hail up here," he acknowledges. But he warns that unscrupulous operators who travel from state to state, chasing disasters, take advantage of such situations by asking for payment up-front and then split before doing any work. Moreover, there's already evidence that some people offering repairs in the metro area are less than legitimate -- and it comes from the wife of a Wheat Ridge police sergeant.
"This guy came to the door, and she said, 'Let me call my husband' -- and they didn't come around after that," he points out.
The roofers are starting to pop up more frequently today, Romero says, "now that it's finally nice outside and it's not raining anymore." He adds that "Colorado presents a huge opportunity for these scammers to pull off their craft -- and we're trying to stop them."
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To that end, the WRPD has put out a warning about such schemes. Here it is:
Scammers Try to Capitalize on Flooding
As the state of Colorado begins to recover from the recent storms and flooding, the Wheat Ridge Police Department encourages Wheat Ridge community members and business owners to be aware of potential scams. The scams most seen after disasters involving severe weather and storms involve home repair, tree trimming and asphalt improvement work. At this time, community members should be on the lookout for illegitimate roofers in particular.
"Gypsy" or "Storm Chaser" scams involve individuals who usually travel in small groups across the country perpetrating crimes of fraud, theft and burglary. These scam artists show up after a major storm causes significant damage in a community, especially after significant rain and/or hail storms.
The scammers ask for payment up front usually in cash or sometimes in the form of a check. In nearly all cases, the work is not completed or is poorly done. When the victim tries to stop payment on the check, it has already been cashed and the "contractor" is never heard from again. Most often these scammers target the elderly population.
Whenever you are approached by a person soliciting home or business repair, it is always best to not make a decision right away. Ask to see a business license. Any legitimate business will have a license. Don't enter into an agreement right away. Take the opportunity to check the Better Business Bureau to see if there is a report on the company.
If you suspect that someone is trying to scam you, you should immediately call the Wheat Ridge Police Department to report the suspicious behavior at (303) 237-2220. Get a good description of thesubject(s). Remember, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For any questions or more crime prevention tips please contact the department's Crime Prevention Team at (303) 235-2910.
More from our News archive: "Photos: The terrifying attack of the hail-storm-chasing roofers."