Officials Warn Hoosiers to Beware Of Scams

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Release date: 
October 7, 2008
Release Number: 
1795-017

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are warning Indiana residents affected by the recent severe storms and flooding to be on the lookout for people trying to cheat them.

"Be alert for door-to-door solicitors who hand out flyers and promise quick insurance, quick building permits and quick repairs," says FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Steve DeBlasio.? "And watch out for folks who ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full."? Although most people who work in the building trades are honest, disasters tend to attract scam artists.

Some fraudulent types may try to gain your personal information by claiming to be FEMA-certified. DeBlasio says FEMA neither certifies nor endorses repair contractors.

"After you call our toll-free application number-1-800-621-FEMA (3362)-FEMA workers who contact you will have photo IDs and they do not handle money or charge fees," said DeBlasio.? FEMA employees and damage inspectors will also be able to confirm your case number if you ask, said DeBlasio; a scam artist will not know your case number.

"We are asking residents to be cautious," IDHS Executive Director Joe Wainscott, Jr, said.? "By following standard business practices, you can protect yourself against dishonest people."

These tips are offered for hiring contractors:

  • Get a written estimate. Compare services and prices before making a final decision. Also, read the fine print. Some contractors charge a fee for a written estimate, which is often included in the cost of the repairs they make.

  • Check references. A reliable contractor is willing to provide names of previous customers. Call these references to make sure they are satisfied with the work performed.

  • Ask for proof of insurance. Make sure the contractor carries general liability insurance and workers' compensation. If the contractor is not insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property.

  • Use reliable, licensed contractors.? Call your local Better Business Bureau to inquire about a business before signing a contract.  At a minimum, be sure to ask about registration status, complaints history, and enforcement action.

  • Insist on a written contract. A complete contract should clearly state all tasks to be performed, all associated costs and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces. Make sure the contract clearly states who will apply for the necessary permits or licenses. Have a lawyer review the contract if substantial costs are involved, and keep a copy for your records.

  • Get guarantees. Any guarantees made by the contractor should be written into the contract. The guarantee should clearly state what is guaranteed, who is responsible to fulfill the guarantee and how long the guarantee is valid.

  • Make final payments when the work is completed. Do not sign completion papers or make the final payment until the work is done to your satisfaction. A reputable contractor will not threaten you or pressure you to sign if the job is not finished properly.

  • Pay by credit card or check.? Each has advantages.? Payment by credit card allows you to appeal and recoup a disputed amount in the event you have difficulties at a later time.  Payment by check with a clear notation gives you a record that links payments with completed jobs.  Never pay in cash, and do not pay for the whole transaction in one lump sum.  Avoid making large down-payments, because this could p...

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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