Wise, VA -- Southwestern Virginia residents affected by the March flooding should exercise caution when contracting for home repairs, submitting claims, and replacing damaged items. Federal Coordinating Officer Louis Botta said, "It's unfortunate, but disasters often bring scam artists into the area to take advantage of the situation."
Residents should be suspicious of any offer that promises to speed up the insurance or government claims process or requires cash or check deposits. Some scam artists claim to be "FEMA certified."
State Coordinating Officer Michael M. Cline said, "All FEMA and Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) personnel carry photo identification and flood victims should not hesitate to ask them to show it.
There are other tips to avoid being cheated:
- Check with local, state or federal officials on any offer by a third party that promises to speed up government or insurance company response time.
- Work only with trusted local contractors.
- Ask for and check references.
- Get all agreements in writing.
- Ask for a written guarantee on work to be done.
- Agree to have work inspected by a qualified and independent inspector before final payment.
- Be sure all agreements include a complete description of the work, materials, starting and completion dates, and total cost.
- Avoid paying large sums in advance.
- Don't be pressured into signing any document.
- Ensure that electrical, plumbing and structural contractors are licensed.
- Don't pay individuals to help fill out forms.
- Call the Virginia Better Business Bureau (1-800-451-1525) to check on any business before signing a contract.