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On Your Side: How to protect yourself from hurricane, tropical storm-related scams

In the wake of Tropical Storm Elsa, the Better Business Bureau encouraging people impacted by storms to do their homework before hiring a contractor.

FLORIDA, USA — With hurricane season comes storm chasers, and we're not just talking about the ones getting rained on.

Every year the Better Business Bureau receives hundreds of complaints about out-of-town contractors soliciting business and doing subpar work.

The non-profit encourages those affected by storms this season to do their homework.

Tom Stephens, BBB of Northeast Florida President, says consumers should make sure the contractor they are working with is licensed in the state – if their profession requires it. As a general rule, a licensed professional is anything that has to do with adding or altering the bones of a house structure, he adds. For example, licensed professions include roofing, plumbing, air conditioning. Tree trimming contractors do not need a license.

Licensed contractors are required to have their license numbers on all the documents they give you – business cards, contracts. It is also required to be on their vehicles.

He says consumers can look up licensed contractors on MyFloridaLicense.org as well.

Those affected by storms this season can also check out BBB.org to see if a contractor has a history of problems or complaints.

“We encourage people to always try to get at least multiple bids – three would be better," Stephens said. "And probably try to avoid doing business with the door-to-door guy that's knocking on your door with flyers.“

He also recommends to never pay more than one-third of the job upfront or go into business with a contractor who's not willing to sign a contract.

The BBB shares more tips on researching contractors and how to protect yourself from storm chasers after a natural disaster on their website.