(CBS) — The CBS 2 Investigators have been reporting for years about the ripoffs you can face if your home is damaged by hail storms.

In the wake of harsh weather this week, CBS 2’s Pam Zekman has some advice from the experts on how to protect yourself.

The key here is for homeowners not to let contractors take advantage of them at a time when they may be vulnerable.

Severe storms like those that hit Minooka this week with golfball-sized hail can cause severe damage to your roof and siding.

Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer says residents should be wary about door-to-door solicitors offering to make repairs.

Even if your home isn’t damaged, the National Insurance Crime bureau warns that unscrupulous contractors may create damage like lifting off roof shingles or making dents to simulate hail damage.

“We see a lot of this. It’s a major problem across the country,” Roger Morris says.

The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office says make sure you are dealing with a licensed and bonded contractor — and ask for references.

“We often talk about in our own office that most of the bad actors out there could not give you three good recommendations to save their lives,” Joseph Hudson says.

You should get more than one estimate and read any contract before you sign it to make sure it details work to be done and the cost. Never pay in full in advance.

“The contractor could end up doing shoddy work,” Hudson says. “And instead of your insurance company helping you out with repairs you are now paying out of pocket to get the roof work done correctly.”

If you think you have been ripped off, here are some resources to contact:

–Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection: 3-1-1

–Cook county State’s Attorney Consumer Fraud Unit: (312) 603-8700

–Illinois Attorney General: 1 (800) 386-5438