Officials warn of storm cleanup scams and how to avoid them

Authorities in Carroll and Newton counties want residents to be aware of bad-weather scams as people start to rebuild homes damaged from Friday's EF-1 tornado.

It took mere minutes New Year's Eve for a twister to uproot trees, homes, and lives all before resolutions could begin.

In Newton County a brother and sister narrowly survived the high winds that picked up their car and slammed it to the ground with the two inside.


Cars in a Chick-fil-A parking lot were strewn like Hot Wheels toys in a child's bedroom.

"We knew we were going to have some sort of damage because 911 was being inundated with calls," Carroll County Communications officer Ashley Hulsey said.

Hulsey said about 20 homes were damaged as far as Temple when that twister touched down and whipped winds upwards of 90 mph.

"We're very fortunate given the time of day that no one was injured," she said,

Homeowners can start the clean-up process now that most businesses have reopened after the holiday season and county leaders warn criminals often prey on desperation.

"They're going door to door. Typically, what we tell people is if it's too good to be true it probably is," Hulsey said.

The Carroll County Sheriff's Office has posted a warning to residents about storm chaser scams.

They said going through your insurance company is the best bet.

If someone offers repairs in exchange for an upfront payment, don't do it.

"You can look up-- are these contractors licensed, are they insured, are they local? Someone you trust? Do they have reputable references," she said.

Consumers can always contact the Better Business Bureau to confirm a company's reliability. Law enforcement also urges you to get an invoice from the contractor to pay them directly instead of signing over insurance checks.

Contractors fall victim to these scams as well, Hulsey said. The phony repair teams offer substantial money to partner with local contractors. The aim is to gain credibility while never following through with the funds.