Disaster Scams

It’s unfortunate that there are people who prey on the weak and injured, yet in our society, they exist. Individuals who take advantage of people who have been involved in a disaster often portray themselves as government representatives with important information to make the situation better or threaten you with scare tactics. They seek personal information so they can further victimize you. They believe that you are more vulnerable when you’ve just gone through a disaster. They are right; you are more vulnerable.

You can avoid their scams though by being aware of what the tactics they use. Emergency home repair scams are one way they will try to cheat you. They may offer you a “one time only” deal and then pressure you to act on it or lose the opportunity. Or they may require you to pay for everything prior to having any work done…then never show up to do the work. They may not be licensed to do the work you need done, or try to get you to sign a contract that is vague and difficult to understand.

You can avoid the above difficulties by using local, licensed professionals, and by looking at their credentials and asking for references. Read any contract carefully prior to signing it.

They may say they are with FEMA and ask for payment for inspecting your property or say they endorse a contractor. FEMA officials do not accept money or endorse specific contractors. They never charge for inspecting your property.

Beware if you’re looking to buy a car online too. Flood damaged cars are shipped to other areas, so you won’t think they’ve been affected. Check the VIN and look at the vehicle’s history. Signs of water damage to a vehicle include having a musty or perfumy smell, a discolored interior, mold, or water stains to the floor carpeting, seats, or in the trunk.

Scammers will also try to get your money by asking for donations to help others injured by disaster. Be sure to research any charity before donating and then only to well-known charities. Disaster causes enough grief without letting scammers make it worse. Be aware, be informed.