Tips to avoid scams as cleanup & repairs begin
BATON ROUGE - The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness released a list of tips from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office to residents impacted after the severe weather about scams that might be attempted during clean up and repair work, as there is an increased risk for scams after severe weather or disasters have occurred.
The La. Attorney General advises residents not to donate any charity for cash or wired donations that does not provide proof of your contribution being tax-deductible.
Residents can search the IRS site to determine which organizations are eligible to receive tax deductible contributions here: https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/.
Residents should be aware of charities that arise immediately after a natural disaster. To learn more about a charity’s trustworthiness visit the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance web site here: http://give.org/.
Residents should insist on a face-to-face transaction with a rental agreement and visit the actual location of the advertised rental property. Residents should be advised that scam artists advertise rental property on social media sites and require the renter to potentially wire money.
Residents should get at least three detailed bids from licensed contractors and make sure the contractor is through the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at www.lslbc.louisiana.gov.
Further, residents are advised to always require the contractor to show proof of insurance and call the insurer to confirm coverage.
Residents should not agree to a large down payment and if possible, accompany the contractor to the supply store, pay for the materials yourself and have the materials delivered directly to the job site.
Residents are advised to get a contract in writing and any changes should be in writing and initialed by both parties.
Residents should always pay contractors by check or money order and keep a receipt. Additionally, checks should be written to the company not the individual worker.
FEMA advises all residents that an individual with a government disaster assistance agency will not call or text asking for financial account information. Residents should also keep in mind that federal and state workers never ask for or accept money and always carry ID badges, and there is no fee required to apply for or to get disaster assistance.
Scam attempts can be made over the phone, by mail or email, text or in person. Louisiana residents are asked to remain alert, ask questions and require photo identification when someone claims to represent a government agency. Those who question the validity of a contact or suspect fraud are encouraged to call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721.