CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- As flood victims turn their energy and resources to cleaning up, repairing, and replacing their damaged property, trusting people with disrupted lives make an easy mark for con artists.
A common scam is posing as an inspector or loss verifier of flood damaged property. Some of these "inspectors" charge a fee for what they do. Some may have official-looking identification used to get inside residents' property. If someone comes to your door that says they are with a government agency or utility, insist on seeing identification. If you have any doubts, check them out.
Beware as well of fraudulent home repair salesmen or contractors. Before replacing an appliance check to see whether or not it is usable. Often all that is needed is to clean the item thoroughly and start it up. Check with the manufacturer for any special recommendations. A water heater, for example is a sealed unit. If the sealed tank itself has not broken, even if it has been submerged, it may still work. Have the valves checked and, if necessary, cleaned out.
If a gas fired unit got wet, have it inspected by a licensed technician and a local government agent, if required, prior to the gas being turned back on. Once the unit has been certified as serviceable by the proper authorities, the gas company will restore service. Electric water heaters may only need to have the element and/or thermostat replaced.
If someone takes your money, it may be impossible to get it back. If you suspect fraud, call the police, sheriff, or Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-515-281-5926.