BATON ROUGE, La. – With more than $218 million in state and federal recovery dollars in the hands of Louisiana’s Hurricane Isaac survivors, fake building contractors and other con artists are angling to get their hands on some of it, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warns.
Scam artists and other criminals often attempt to prey on vulnerable survivors once they have some money in hand to repair their storm-damaged homes. Authorities in Louisiana have already received isolated reports of unscrupulous people doing just that.
“While homeowners are anxious to repair their homes as quickly as they can, we urge them to first check the credentials of anyone offering to do those repairs,” said Gerard M. Stolar, federal coordinating officer for FEMA’s Louisiana-based recovery operation. “Asking just a few questions can save people from a lot of heartache.”
Homeowners do have a valuable resource to help them determine whether someone is a legitimate professional. The Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors offers an online database that allows people to check up on potential contractors: http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov/findcontractor.asp.
The site also includes a “For Consumers” pull-down tab, which includes a public education section, complete with tips for hiring contractors and managing costs, including advice on determining appropriate down payments and payment schedules.
The most common post-disaster fraud practices include not only fraudulent building contractors, but phony housing inspectors, bogus pleas for disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid. Those who suspect fraud should call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721. Complaints may also be made to local authorities or through the Louisiana Attorney General’s office at 1-800-351-4889 or online at www.ag.state.la.us.
For more information on Louisiana disaster recovery, click www.fema.gov/disaster/4080 or www.gohsep.la.gov. You can follow FEMA on Twitter at www.twitter.com/femaregion6 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FEMA. Also visit our blog at www.fema.gov/blog.
Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.
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.