Beware of Scammers After Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma barreled across Florida, leaving death and destruction behind. Damage from Irma is expected to equal or surpass the recent damage inflicted in Texas by Hurricane Harvey. Thousands of people are left homeless, or with homes in such a state of destruction it will be weeks before they can once again be inhabited. Many have lost everything they own and, in some cases, they will be mourning the loss of loved ones or cherished pets who lost their lives in the storm.

News reports focus on great stories of heroism. Neighbors helping neighbors survive. People taking out their own boats to rescue others from rooftops. But, when the time for recovery begins, survivors need to pay close attention and thoroughly vet any offers of help.

If you are a person who needs assistance, beware! Scammers are on the loose. Not everyone is kind, thoughtful and has your best interest at heart. Without regard for anyone except themselves, there are unscrupulous people hoping to profit off of the misfortune of others.

Offers of Assistance that are Scams

The Consumerist, an online subsidiary of Consumer Reports, offers some ways to tell if the help you are being offered is real or a scam.

· Bogus rental listings. Thousands of people will be looking for places to live. Do not respond to a landlord or property manager who requires you to wire money to secure the rental without you first seeing the property. Do not give out your bank account or credit card information to a so-called property manager over the phone or the internet.

· Do not give your credit card or a check for a credit check. Unfortunately, it is documented that scammers post fake rental ads on Craigslist for property that either doesn’t exist, or that is not owned by the person running the ad. The listing will require a fee for a credit check, ostensibly before the property is shown. But, there is no property. Again, do not send money for any reason unless you have first seen the property and verify the person showing you the property is the landlord or manager with a right to lease the premises.

· Home repair scams. As anxious as you are to repair your home and resume your normal life, do not rush into it. Get different bids. Choose a contractor who can provide you recommendations or has worked in the past with someone you know. Be sure the contractor is insured and that you have an agreement, in writing, about what repairs are include and the expected cost.

· There is NO FEMA endorsement or certification. Beware of any repair company or contractor who claims to be endorsed or certified by FEMA. There is no such thing!

· Never pay the full repair fee up front. Have a payment schedule in writing so the final payment is not made until the work is completed. Using a credit card is safer than paying cash or by check. If the work is not performed according to your contract, your credit card company will pursue your complaint if the worker absconds with your money without performing the agreed upon work.

If you have any questions, or need assistance in pursuing relief for personal injury or damages you suffered as a result of Hurricane Irma, or another hurricane that is predicted to follow in its wake, contact us at Dell & Schaefer. We understand your grief and are anxious to help.

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