Tornado scammers are on the prowl, so be careful

Photo (c) Francis Lavigne-Theriault - Getty Images

The FTC asks that you get the word out to whoever, wherever

Another disaster, another scam. Seems like America can’t survive a Mayfield Ky., or a Rolling Fork Miss., without some yahoo pretending to be someone from FEMA, calling people up or going door-to-door, trying to pull off some disaster recovery scam.

Those scams run the gamut – insurance scams, price gouging, home repair fraud – any scheme that someone thinks they can use to convince a victim that they’re on their side and will do everything in their power to help them out.

“Criminals know potential victims are at their most vulnerable after a natural disaster, which is why it’s important to be on guard against insurance-related scams immediately following a loss,” said Georgia’s insurance commissioner John King. 

“Never pay upfront for services, only use trusted providers, and speak to your insurance company before signing any contracts for repairs done to your home. My office is here to assist any consumers who are having issues with a claim or are not receiving a timely response from their insurance company.”

Other signs to be on the lookout for

Safety inspector? Yeah, right… The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that if someone claims they’re a safety inspector, a government official, or a utility worker ordering that immediate work is required on your property, stop right there. Don’t give them money. Don’t show them your ID, either, until you ask for their identification to verify who you’re dealing with.

Don’t pay to apply for FEMA assistance. If they say you need to pay to qualify for FEMA funds, it’s a TOTAL scam because that’s not the way FEMA works. The best place to get information from FEMA is from or by downloading the FEMA Mobile App to get alerts and information.

Look out for clean-up and repair scams. These types of scams run rampant because it’s a quick in, get the money, and they’re gone.

“Unlicensed contractors and scammers may appear in recovery zones with promises of quick repairs or clean-up services. Walk away if they demand cash payments up front, or refuse to give you copies of their license, insurance, and a contract in writing,” Gema de las Heras, a Consumer Education Specialist at FTC, said.

Steer clear of rental listing scams. ConsumerAffairs wrote about this very thing recently and scammers are using the ploy wherever they can because they know people need a place to live while they rebuild. The first thing you want to do is go and see if that rental property actually exists.

If it does, the FTC says you should take a few extra steps to keep your cash safe: Don’t wire or give money for a deposit or rent until you’ve met the rental agent or homeowner or you have signed a lease.  

Spread the word

If you live in one of the affected areas ravaged by a tornado or flood or know people who do, let others know what scams they might encounter. 

“Share resources from Dealing with Weather Emergencies with those in your community. You’ll find advice and infographics to help you get the word out about disaster scams,” de las Hera suggests.

It might even help to share this article on social media so others can stay informed, as well. Just click on your choice of the Twitter, Facebook, or email link below the headline at the top of this page.

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