HARRISBURG, Pa. -- After a disaster, scam artists stay up nights thinking of ways they can defraud innocent individuals already hurting because of a storm or hurricane or other disaster. Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency say these scam artists will not succeed if Pennsylvanians who had storm losses know in advance about their tactics and demand proof of who they are and the services they are selling.
Are they who they claim to be? Ask these questions:
- May I see your picture ID?
- May I have your office phone number and address?
- May I see your license for the type of work you do?
- Are you bonded, insured, and licensed?
- Can you give me references from former clients?
- Will you provide a written contract?
A legitimate business owner or contractor will be able to answer these questions and give you proof of who they are. In many instances someone will show up at your door. You need to be very wary if this happens. You can be caught off guard when you're in the middle of trying to cope with a disaster.
How did they know you had disaster losses? Ask these questions:
- Were they canvassing the neighborhood?
- Do they represent a government or social service agency?
- Are they from a church or community organization?
- Have they done work in the area?
Weigh the responses, and if you're interested in following up, get contact information or references.
Scam artists are persuasive individuals. They know you are anxious to get back into your home or business and resume your normal life. Beware of supposed "discounts" and "small" deposits for work not yet done. You may even be offered a "government check" you did not sign up for.
Look for well documented business persons who can do a good job at standard rates and in a timely manner. Disaster officials recommend that you obtain as much information as possible and check out any services and service providers you are interested in before moving forward. If you are confronted with fraudulent practices call your local law enforcement agency and call the FEMA Office of the Inspector General's waste, fraud and abuse hotline at 1-800-323-8603. Fraud will be prosecuted.
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.