Tips to avoid scams as recovery begins
BATON ROUGE – Emergency officials are warning residents to be aware of multiple scams that are surfacing as recovery from the historic flooding begins.
In a Sunday evening press release, FEMA offered tips to avoid scams as the many residents begin to rebuild their flooded homes.
FEMA says residents should never offer personal financial information over the phone. Residents should not be shy about asking for identification to know who you are working with.
Government workers will never ask for a fee or payment and will always wear official government photo IDs.
Homeowners and registered FEMA applicants should be aware for housing inspectors claiming to represent FEMA or the SBA. Official FEMA inspectors will never ask for an applicant’s 9-digit registration number.
FEMA inspectors also do not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs. They also do not determine eligibility for assistance.
Keep these consumer safety tips in mind when working with contractors:
- Verify the license or registration number with the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors at lacontractor.orgor call 800-256-1392.
- Get three written estimates for repair work. Then check credentials and contact your local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce to learn about any complaints against the contractor or business.
- Before work begins, make sure you get a written contract detailing all the work to be performed, the costs, a projected completion date, and how to negotiate changes and settle disputes.
- Louisiana, Attorney General Jeff Landry encourages you to use the following tips:
- Take a picture of your contractor, his/her vehicle, and its license plate.
- Take a picture of the contractor’s business card and his/her driver’s license.
- Photograph or scan his/her contracting license and insurance.
- Photograph or scan the contract made with him/her.
- Photograph or scan all checks and money orders made as payments to the contractor.
- Preserve all these photographs by emailing them to yourself and a trusted companion and/or by saving them in a cloud-based application.
- If you suspect anyone – an inspector, disaster survivor, or someone posing as one of these – of fraudulent activities, call the FEMA toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or your local law enforcement officials.
- To report a scam or sign up for consumer alerts, call Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 800-351-4889 or visitAGJeffLandry.com.
- Do not follow unsolicited web links or attachments in email messages.
- Keep antivirus and other computer software up-to-date.
- Check this Better Business Bureau (BBB) list for helping Louisiana flood victimsbefore making any donations to this cause.
- Verify the legitimacy of any email solicitation by contacting the organization directly through a trusted contact number. You can find trusted contact information for many charities on the BBB National Charity Report Index.
There is no fee to apply for FEMA disaster assistance or to receive it. The only ways to register for FEMA help are to:
- Call 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585)
- Visit DisasterAssistance.govor speak to a FEMA employee at a Discovery Recovery Center.