published Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Consumer advocate warns be wary after the storm

If there's ever been a time for the adage, 'buyer beware,' it's now, said Gary Cordell, Director of the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs.

With the storm damage in the Tennessee Valley and the flood damage in from the bulging Mississippi River, contractors both good and bad are streaming into the region.

In some ways, the disasters have brought neighbors together and turned strangers into friends, Cordell said. But some who appear to be friends are not to be trusted, and have been ripping off residents who have already lost so much.

"If somebody knocks on your door, just remember that a reputable contractor will already have more work than they can handle," he said.

Beware of fake Federal Emergency Management Agency or insurance adjuster badges, and never ever pay money up front, he added.

"These scam artists, they're very good at what they do, and their sole reason for coming is to trick you out of your money, he said."

When in doubt, he said to check contractors' background online at or verify their identity at

Consumers can also check with the Chattanooga Better Business Bureau at 266-0396, said Jim Winsett, head of the local bureau.

"It's good when we get inquiries," Winsett said. "That keeps the actual scam activities very minimal."

Read more in tomorrow’s Times Free Press

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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