Survivors in the Florida Panhandle Warned to Watch Out for Scam Artists

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Release date: 
May 30, 2014
Release Number: 
016

PENSACOLA, Fla. – With many Floridians on the road to recovery from the recent storms and flooding, state and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials warn of scam artists.

“We understand that survivors are anxious to get repairs done and get the help they need to put their lives back in order,” said State Coordinating Officer Bryan Koon. “As you begin repairs, please take the necessary steps to ensure that you are hiring legitimate, responsible contractors.”

The state and FEMA caution residents to be on alert for scam artists using tricks to obtain vital information or take advantage of storm-weary survivors.

Some of the scams often used are:

Home Repair

Unlicensed home improvement contractors may take the disaster survivor’s money and disappear, leaving unfinished work and unsafe homes. Before hiring a contractor, storm survivors should check with the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation online at www.myfloridalicense.com. The DBPR website provides information about licensed contractors.

Always ask for proof of the contractor’s liability insurance. All contracts should be in writing and carefully reviewed before being signed. Full payment should not be made until the work is completed. The local police department should be notified of suspected fraud.

Price Gouging

Excessive price increases are illegal. Check with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs at freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Consumer-Services or call 800-HELP-FLA or TTY 800-435-7352 if you suspect prices are unreasonably high.

False Payments and Bribes

Con artists may pose as insurance specialists or expeditors, claiming they can convince FEMA to increase home repair damage aid or the insurer to pay a larger settlement. The scammers ask the applicant or policyholder to sign a contract giving them a percentage of the “increased” payment.

The essence of the con is to take a percentage of the damage grant or policy settlement. FEMA always deals directly with each applicant and is always willing to consider an appeal by sending a new inspector to review damaged property or claimed losses.

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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.

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 temporary housing assistance and grants for childcare, medical, dental expenses and/or funeral expenses do not require individuals to apply for an SBA loan. However, those who receive SBA loan applications must submit them to SBA to be eligible for assistance that covers personal property, transportation, vehicle repair or replacement, and moving and storage expenses.

Last Updated: 
June 3, 2014 - 15:13
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