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How to stay high and dry against storm-chasing scams

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Severe weather and historic flooding have left people in many parts of the U.S. battling to save lives, homes and businesses. The last thing anyone needs are scam artists who prey on the misfortune of others. Common natural disaster scams include debris removal and clean-up, shoddy repairs and construction, charity fraud, and imposter scams.

Here are some ways to arm yourself against scammers who use weather emergencies to cheat people:

  • Be skeptical if someone promises immediate clean-up. It won’t save time or money if you hire someone without the skills, licenses, and insurance to legally do the work.
  • Keep your guard up. Ask to see the ID of anyone who wants to enter your home or business. Check them out with your state and local consumer protection officials. Check signage on trucks and cars for local addresses and phone numbers.
  • Ask the contractor you’re considering to show you a current license and certificate of insurance. If a contractor tells you work is covered by your insurance, call your insurance company to confirm.
  • Pay with a credit card or check. If a contractor asks for a deposit or full payment in cash, stop. That’s a warning sign that something’s not right.

You don’t have to live in a flood-stricken area to be victimized by storm scammers.

  • Looking for a way to help? Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Legitimate charities face competition from fraudsters who tout bogus charities or aren’t entirely honest about how a so-called charity will use your contribution.
  • Shopping for a car? Vehicles damaged by floods can be cleaned up and taken out of state for sale. You might not know a vehicle is damaged until you take a closer look or have a mechanic check it out.

For more information, visit Dealing with Weather Emergencies.

This article by the FTC was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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