Indianapolis, IN -- If you were affected by the September 20 tornadoes and severe storms you should be aware that some unscrupulous contractors might try to take advantage of you.
"If you have disaster-related damages, I urge you to be very careful when contracting for repairs," Bill Lokey, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Coordinating Officer said. "I do not want you to be come a victim a second time."
Disaster officials cautioned residents not to sign contracts or make down payments without first receiving written estimates from contractors and to avoid offers which seem too good to refuse. People should ask for references and check with relatives or friends before deciding which contractor to choose.
"Be especially alert for door-to-door solicitors who ask for large cash deposits or entire payments in advance," Patrick R. Ralston, State Coordinating Officer for the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), said. "Often the work is never performed or the down payment is never returned."
Residents may be able to check with local permit officials, builder associations, and the Better Business Bureau if they have questions about specific contractors. Ralston also suggests that disaster victims call the Indiana State Attorney General's Consumer Protection number, 1-800-382-5516, or visit their web site at /goodbye.pl?url=http://www.in.gov/attorneygeneral">www.in.gov/attorneygeneral, if they have concerns about people representing themselves as contractors.
"You should also remember that federal employees and federal contract workers do not charge victims for their services," Lokey said. "If someone posing as a federal employee or federal contractor attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and their vehicle number to your local police department."
Federal employees carry official photo identification and applicants may receive a visit from more than one inspector or verifier. If someone represents themselves as a federal employee but does not produce identification residents are urged to ask to see it.