Waldorf, MD -- In a time of disaster fraud occurs, and citizens should take the proper precautions to protect themselves and their businesses, said Charles County Sheriff Frederick E. Davis today.
"Residents and members of our business community can take steps to protect themselves and avoid fraud when hiring contractors to clean property, remove debris or make repairs," he explained.
Special investigators from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) have briefed the Sheriff and his staff on the potential for scam artists to surface following a disaster.
FEMA offered a few simple rules to avoid becoming a victim of fraud: Only use contractors licensed by the State of Maryland; Get a written estimate and get more than one estimate; Demand and check references; Ask for proof of insurance, i.e., liability and Workmen's Compensation; Insist on a written contract and refuse to sign a contract with blank spaces; Get any guarantees in writing; Make final payments only after the work is completed; Pay by check.
"The best way to avoid fraud is to arm yourself against it by having a checklist to remind you of what you need to demand when hiring a contractor," said Federal Coordinating Officer, Tom Davies. "You will be letting the contractor know that you expect professional work."
Officials cautioned businesses that provide services to contractors to follow the same good business practices they used before the disaster.
"It's important to report your suspicions concerning fraud to FEMA or to the Sheriff's office, so we can stop dishonest contractors before they prey on someone else," said State Coordinating Officer, Donald L. Keldsen. "Call the FEMA OIG Hotline 1-800-323-8603, or the Charles County Sheriff's Office at 301-932-2222."
Callers can also contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau at 1-800-447-6282.