Avoid Restoration Scams
With all the news about major disasters declared by President Obama throughout the United States, there are people ready to jump on the opportunity to take advantage of those most in need. As a result, FEMA offered tips on avoiding and reporting fraud for those recovering from flood damage.
- Always see ID. If someone comes to your home and states they are with FEMA or with the Small Business Administration (SBA), ask to see their ID if it is not immediately presented to you. Asking to see identification will not offend government workers as they are expected to present or be asked for ID. Those who are not willing to present ID, are reluctant to do so or act like it is a hassle are most likely not with FEMA or the SBA. FEMA states on their website, “Inspectors sent by FEMA or verifiers from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) carry official, laminated photo identification. Applicants may receive a visit from more than one inspector or verifier.”
- Do not give out or show personal information. FEMA inspectors will never ask you for your personal information such as a social security number, bank account information and so on. If you are asked about wet documents, such as a business documents or social security cards, do not show them to anyone except a reputable restoration professional you personally hired that specializes in drying wet documents and wet books. If a government representative or a person claiming to be a contractor asks you for this, they are not legitimately conducting business with your best interests in mind. The only time you will be asked for personal information by FEMA is when you register with the agency for emergency assistance. After that, representatives will only ask for the last four digits of your SSN.
- Only use licensed and insured contractors. All legitimate contractors have a licensed through a state contractor’s board and carry their own insurance. Ask for proof of insurance before a contractor begins any work, get all estimates and contracts in writing and read all the fine print before signing on the dotted line. Also, keep this fact from FEMA in mind: “FEMA inspectors do not hire or endorse specific contractors to repair damage.”
- Report fraud or suspected fraud to the Disaster Fraud Hotline: 800-323-8603.
- Call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362) if you question the validity of a person’s identity that has called or visited you.