Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires have all wreaked havoc across America this year. Unfortunately, fraudsters take advantage of families and communities left vulnerable after these events. In fact, disaster fraud increases directly following any natural or man-made disaster. Disaster Fraud is a deliberate act to deceive people, government entities, and private industries after a catastrophic event for financial gain. The FBI and National Center for Disaster Fraud have issued alerts for this type of fraud in the wake of recent storms.
How does this affect me?
With Hurricane Matthew wrecking the shores of the southeast, insurance providers such as Security First Insurance have been assisting the communities of Florida by creating a helpline. Callers can seek guidance and sort out problems regardless of the company they hold a policy with. Resources like this can help educate the public about their policies and recognize fraudulent scams in the area.
As the Southeast begins to recover and work towards life as normal, Alabama residents may be experiencing similar problems. As the current drought continues, over 900 wildfires have been reported across the state, with the most recent being in central Alabama. Home and business owners are on alert for the current threat, but what they don’t know is that another wave a threats lurk in the aftermath.
What are the red flags?
One of the most common forms of fraud after a disaster is Home Repair Fraud. Many residents are in need of contractors or repairmen to help restore damage. Homeowners in need of immediate repair sometimes neglect normal precautions. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have offered some tips to avoid fraud after a disaster.
- Do your homework. Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Home Builders Association to read recommendations or complaints against the contractor.
- Only work with contractors that are licensed and insured.
- Make sure your contract is documented and review it carefully. If something doesn’t feel right, take the time to get a second opinion.
- Never feel pressured. Fraudulent contractors often solicit door-to-door with “one day only” discounts or require money upfront before the job is complete.
If you believe someone is perpetrating a fraudulent scheme, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud immediately. The NCDF was create post- Hurricane Katrina to protect victims of disaster relief fraud and includes over 20 federal agencies. For more information about recognizing Disaster Fraud, visit bit.ly/2fblWcj.