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Spring is officially here, and we've already seen reports of severe weather and tornadoes in parts of the U.S. As the weather warms up and storms become more frequent, roofing scams do as well. In fact, BBB Scam Tracker is already receiving reports of shady "free" roof inspections. Your BBB warns homeowners to be on the lookout for these.

Here's how this approach typically works: A storm comes through the area and you then receive a call or a person shows up at the door claiming to represent a roofing company. According to recent Scam Tracker reports, con artists often use the name of the consumer's state in their business name, along with the words "Roofing" or "Construction."

The "roofer" offers a free inspection. They may even state that they can see signs of storm damage from the road and can help you get an insurance claim approved. Or they may claim that their company is working on a neighbor's home and is offering inspections to those living nearby.

If you ask questions about where the business is located or how their services work, you'll most likely be met with vague answers. If you are speaking on the phone, they may simply hang up.

If you accept the free inspection, and the "inspector" shows up at your house, a couple of scenarios could happen. If they don't find enough wear and tear to merit a whole new roof, they may fabricate it by tearing off shingles to mimic wind damage. Or they may simply show you pictures of someone else's damaged roof.

It can be hard to detect when either of these happens, but your BBB has tips to help you stay clear of these situations.

How to avoid roofing scams:

* Beware of unsolicited offers. Most scams begin with a contractor who "just happens to be in the area" and notices your roof or home has the appearance of needing repairs from the outside. Roofing scams typically increase in frequency after a powerful storm, so stay alert.

* Get your insurance company to inspect your roof. Filing a claim with your insurance company goes on your record and could affect future claims or your continued coverage. Before signing any paperwork or contracts with a roofing company, have your insurance company to come out for an inspection to verify the need for repairs or replacements.

* Research roofing companies before you hire. Look at a company's business rating on BBB.org. Keep a close eye on previous reviews and any complaints other consumers might have had. Check to see if they are well established in your area, or just visiting the area to find jobs and then plan to move on. Checking out the business with BBB and taking note of their longevity in the area are two of the best ways to know if a roofing company is reputable.

To learn more about hiring a roofing company, you can visit BBB.org/Roofers. BBB also offers valuable information at BBB.org/AvoidScams.

If you've been the victim of roofing scam, please share your experience with others in your community by filing a complaint with BBB. If you don't have contact information for the company, please report your experience on BBB Scam Tracker. Your report could help others avoid a similar situation. You can contact your BBB at 423-266-6144.

Michele Mason is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga.

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