Virginia Beach officials warn of scammers during storm recovery

Garage damage from Friday's storm in the Buckner Farms area of Virginia Beach. (Photo courtesy Juliann Shutter)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Four days after a tornado tore through Virginia Beach, the reality of it is finally hitting Earl Napier.

The house he built 24 years ago is unlivable and of the four trees he planted for his children, two are littered with debris and another is gone. That vulnerability is just what some people will prey on.

Napier told WAVY.com, “These people are coming around with all these flyers and sticking them in your face.”

He and his neighbors have seen contractors wanting work coming in waves — some are legit, while others are questionable.

“I looked at the flyer and I’m seeing license is spelled wrong and they spelled one of the tree words wrong and I’m looking at this guy and I’m like, OK…”

Professionals like Mike Schmitt from Travelers Insurance see this all the time.

“When you start getting contractors from Michigan from Pennsylvania from all around the country who normally aren’t here, those are the people you got to beware of,” he said.

Hiring out-of-town workers is not illegal, but Virginia Beach Commonwealth Attorney’s spokesperson Macie Allen recommends you do the research.

“Check references, if you can. Make sure that it’s a written contract. Make sure that you do all your homework and make sure the person is licensed and that they have the right type of license to do the type of work that you need.”

She advises you get at least three estimates, pay no more than 10 percent or $1,000 down (whichever is less) and never pay in cash.

You can check for a current Virginia professional license here or by calling 804-367-8511. Check for a local business license by contacting the Commissioner of the Revenue at 757-385-4515 or by e-mail at business@vbgov.com.

Be wary of high pressure sales tactics and overly friendly sales pitches. A reputable contractor should allow a customer to take some time to research and check references. Remember: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Always report suspicious activity to police by calling 757-385-5000 in a non-emergency or 911 in an emergency.