March 8, 2013
Have you ever turned on the light in a dark basement and shuddered as cockroaches scurried away? I get that same sense of revulsion whenever I hear about unscrupulous swindlers taking advantage of the victims of natural and manmade disasters.
The Better Business Bureau has dubbed these human cockroaches "Storm Chasers" because they creep out of the woodwork after every major storm or disaster. In fact, because fraud was so widespread after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Justice created the National Center for Disaster Fraud, a central information clearinghouse for more than 20 federal agencies where people can report suspected fraudulent activities tied to disasters of all types.
One common scam is where supposed repair workers blitz impacted neighborhoods, hoping to ensnare frazzled homeowners. Their typical line is, "We're really slammed but with a cash deposit you can ensure a spot on our busy schedule." Or, they'll scare people into thinking their home is dangerously unsafe, sometimes actually creating damage during their "inspection."
Often, these Storm Chasers just take the money and run. Or, if they do show up and make repairs, their work or materials are shoddy. This could leave you on the hook financially since your homeowners insurance probably won't cover unauthorized or fraudulent repairs.
Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau to avoid becoming a Storm Chaser victim:
And finally, remember the adage, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is." If someone uses high-pressure sales tactics, requires full payment upfront, asks you to get necessary permits or offers to shave costs by using leftover materials from another job – run. They're potentially disastrous to your bottom line – and you've been through one disaster already.
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