Years of dealing with Cumberland County storm claims have taught us that the aftermath of a natural disaster is an extremely stressful time.
The last thing people recovering from a flood, hurricane or wildfire need to worry about is whether they’re being preyed upon by scam artists.
Unfortunately, it’s in the wake of these disasters that scam artists tend to thrive, using a combination of chaos, desperation and public goodwill to cheat people out of money.
According to FEMA, some common post-disaster scams include:
1. Phony inspectors
If you’re dealing with property damage from a storm and need to meet with a FEMA representative, ask to see their ID. Simply wearing a FEMA hat or jacket doesn’t make them official. Like all federal employees, FEMA workers carry with them laminated photo IDs.
Your FEMA inspector will also ask you for your identification, but they’ll already have a registration number for you before they visit. Do not share this number with anyone.
FEMA will never call to ask you for financial information, nor will they charge a fee to inspect your property. If you’re not sure if the person calling claiming to be from FEMA is legitimate, hang up and call 800-621-3362 to reach FEMA’s help line.
2. Contracting scams
The FEMA inspector is just there to verify damage, not to recommend or hire contractors or suggest repairs. If someone visits you to say your home is unsafe, do not believe them or let them inside.
Have an architect, engineer or building official inspect your damage. Unethical contractors may actually cause damage in order for you to hire them to fix it. Finally, when it doubt, report suspicious behavior to the authorities.
3. Hiring the right contractor
When hiring a contractor to repair Cumberland County storm claims, always pick someone who’s licensed, local and comes with dependable references and who has done the type of work you need.
Ask for a written contract and read it before signing it. Never pay more than half the cost of the work upfront and always get a written receipt for payments.
If an estimate seems too good to be true, it most likely is. The contractors giving you a low-ball bid is more likely to be uninsured and may charge hefty cancellation fees.
Never pay for work in advance and don’t feel pressured to make immediate decisions. Try to get three separate bids for your work.
4. Charity scams
In the wake of a disaster, it’s only natural that people want to help, often in the form of charitable donations. Unfortunately, scam artists often use disaster relief efforts to steal from people.
The Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice recommend:
- Donating to organizations with a record of disaster relief.
- Be wary of charities that seem to have materialized overnight in response to the disaster
- If you’re not sure about with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance before you donate
- Pay by credit card or with a check written directly to the charity and avoid making cash donations when possible.
- Legitimate charities will have a .org at the end of their website, not .com
- Reputable charities will not try to pressure you into making contributions
As we said at the start of this article, the aftermath of a big storm or other catastrophe is a traumatic time. Let us help make things easier.
Interstate Public Adjusters can examine your home and help you value your Cumberland County storm claims correctly to recover the full value of your lost/damaged property.
Insurance companies have professional adjusters looking out for their interests. Contact us today to learn how we can look at yours.