NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) warn that disasters sometimes bring out scam artists, price gougers and dishonest operators who try to capitalize on the misfortunes of others. Such unpleasant incidents have been recently reported after the recent severe storms and flooding that occurred during the month of September.
“There have been reports of individuals offering to help disaster victims obtain federal help for a fee, and some of the reports say the individuals are asking for personal information” said Deputy State Coordinating Officer Louis Friedmann. “There is absolutely no reason to pay for this, because whatever help (EXISTS) is readily available. Meanwhile, those who ask for personal information may well be trying to commit identity theft.”
Another common fraud tactic involves repairing damage. Just because someone says he or she can repair damage doesn’t mean that they can, and just because they take your money doesn’t mean they will.
According to the state and federal disaster officials, there are steps that individuals can take to protect themselves against unscrupulous business practices.
- Try to work with local contractors that you trust.
- Make sure that they are licensed, and that they are bonded and insured.
- Get your estimate and repair agreement in writing.
- The contract should specify materials to be used, provide start and finish dates, and a payment schedule.
- Do not make a large payment up front for the work.
- Never make a final payment until the job has been satisfactorily completed.
- Always shop around and insist on identification if someone tells you that they work with a government agency or utility.
If you suspect that someone is trying to take advantage of you, contact your local law enforcement agency or the Attorney General’s division of Consumer Protection at 615-741-1671.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.