WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Survivors recovering from the severe storms and flooding that began in June are urged to beware of scam artists that prey on others’ misfortunes, cautioned state and federal officials.
"Unfortunately, some people take advantage of others when they are at their most vulnerable,” said FEMA Coordinating Officer Tom Hall. “We remind residents to be especially careful."
The most common types of fraud after disaster strikes are scam artists, contractor fraud and identity theft. Scammers may come to your door or call on the phone pretending to be a disaster official. They may try to charge money to inspect a home or file a fraudulent claim for assistance. Some contractors might ask for advance payment then disappear. Others might ask for personal information and try to steal your identity.
To protect yourself from scam artists and unscrupulous contractors, keep in mind the following suggestions:
- Be wary of anyone going door-to-door or asking for advance payment.
- Seek references and several written estimates from, and do business only with licensed, insured and reputable local contractors. Local governments may have contractor information.
- Do not pay for services up front.
- Get a detailed, written contract that discloses all costs before the work starts. Retain a copy of the final, signed contract.
- Do not give personal information such as your bank account numbers, Social Security number, driver’s license number, or other information to those without proper identification.
To report suspected fraud in Iowa, contact the Office of the Iowa Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or file a complaint online. Visit www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/Flood_2010.html for Storm and Flood Information. You may also call the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721.
Disaster information and recovery resources may also be accessed directly by smartphone at FEMA’s new mobile website at m.fema.gov/.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.