What Scams To Watch Out For After a Disaster

Home Repair Scams

Unfortunately, victims of disasters need to watch out for scam artists, who are ready to take advantage of others’ misfortune.

Residents should be wary of door-to-door solicitors who hand out flyers and promise to speed up the insurance or building permit process and those who ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full. Con artists are often transients who will move quickly into a troubled area. Though most building contractors are honest, disasters seem to attract scam artists. Some claim to be certified by the State or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), when, in fact, neither the State nor FEMA certifies or endorses any contractor. Ask to see state or local permits or licenses of anyone approaching you about services related to the disaster. When possible, use established local contractors recommended by people you know and trust. Get receipts for all repair payments including cash. Do not make a check payable to a person other than the owner or the company name.

FEMA inspectors may visit neighborhoods following a disaster, and all FEMA inspectors will have proper photo identification. Be aware that FEMA and Small Business Administration (SBA) inspectors never charge applicants for disaster assistance or for inspections.

If you suspect contractor fraud, contact your local Better Business Bureau. If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse involving FEMA disaster assistance programs, report it to the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General.

Charitable Solicitation Scams

Another post-disaster scam involves con artists posing as charitable organizations or governmental disaster relief organizations. These scammers will call to solicit fake contributions and may claim to need personal bank account information. Never give out personal information or bank account information over the phone unless the caller’s identity can be verified. To avoid being scammed after a disaster, residents should watch for the following red flags:

  • Callers may use a name that sounds like a well-known, reputable organization but cannot or will not answer basic questions about the charity.
  • The organization uses high-pressure tactics to obtain a donation.
  • The telephone solicitor insists on payment in cash.
  • A representative of the organization asks to pick up your donation instead of allowing you to mail it.

If a caller or visitor seems suspicious do not hire, sign contracts, or give money. Instead, get as much information as possible and report your suspicion. If you suspect that someone is trying to take advantage of you or the federal government, contact your local law enforcement agency or the Attorney General’s Consumer Affairs Division.