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Tips to Avoid Fraud, Scams and Price Gouging

Release date: 
November 16, 2016
Release Number: 
DR-4283-FL NR 034

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Floridians should keep watching out for, and report, any suspicious activity or potential fraud from scam artists, identity thieves and other criminals trying to prey on Hurricane Matthew survivors. They should also be on the lookout for price gouging by businesses serving disaster survivors in impacted communities.

Disasters often attract unscrupulous scam artists offering deals that sound too good to be true – and almost always are. Accepting these proposals adds more challenges to disaster recovery and can make it difficult to return to normal life.

Both state and federal recovery officials encourage survivors to take steps to avoid common post-disaster fraud:

  • Fake offers of state or federal aid. Beware of any visitors, mail, telephone calls, text messages or e-mails claiming to be from FEMA or the State of Florida asking for your Social Security number, bank account number or other sensitive information
    • Ask anyone claiming to be from FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration or the state to see their identification badge.
    • Don't pay any fee, charge, cash deposit or advance payment for disaster assistance or grants, inspections or even for help in filling out applications –none is required.
  • Phony housing inspectors. The only job of FEMA inspectors is to verify damage.
    • Don’t believe inspectors who:
      • endorse specific contractors to fix homes
      • recommend repairs
      • determine your eligibility for assistance.
      • Don't provide your banking or other personal information, other than confirming your FEMA registration number.
  • Fraudulent contractors. The best way to avoid fraud is to arm yourself with a checklist when hiring and working with a contractor.
    • Use only state-licensed local contractors backed by reliable references.
    • Demand that contractors carry general liability insurance and workers’ compensation.
    • Get a minimum of three estimates in writing, and insist on a clear, written contract.
  • Don't
    • Pay cash; use a credit card or check instead.
    • Pay more than half the costs of repairs upfront; 30 percent of the total cost of the project is a reasonable amount for a down payment, to be paid upon initial delivery of materials.
    • Make payments ahead of time, pay only as work is completed. Make the final payment only when all work performed fulfills contract requirements.
  • Bogus pleas for post-disaster donations. Beware of any requests for personal information or donations, whether it’s made in person, over the phone, by mail, email, or text messages.
  • Verify legitimate solicitations:

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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 800-621-3362 (voice, 711/VRS - Video Relay Service) (TTY: 800-462-7585). Multilingual operators are available (press 2 for Spanish).

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.

 

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:02