The Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) is warning soldiers and their families in areas ravaged by Hurricane Florence to be wary of scammers. The storm hit the Carolinas last week, dumping rain and causing serious flooding in the Carolinas, where several military installations are located.
“Dishonest individuals or contractors will use this opportunity to inflate damage estimates, or swindle homeowners in home repair, debris removal and other cleanup scams,” said CID spokesman Chris Grey.
Other scammers would seek donations for purported charitable organizations that do not exist, Grey said. People should be wary of emails and web sites that claim they exist to serve storm victims, but actually are seeking personal information or soliciting contributions that would only serve to line the scammers’ pockets.
Those who wish to donate should do research first, and ask questions of those who come forward with requests for money. They should get the charities’ phone numbers, addresses, and information about whether the organizations are registered.
Some phony web sites will be crafted to look like legitimate and recognizable charitable agencies.
Contractors should be licensed, and should not ask for cash in advance of repair services. They should provide written estimates as well. People are advised not to sign blank contracts, sign insurance checks over to contractors, or pay in cash. All work should be inspected upon completion. It is a good idea to take before-and-after pictures with the contractor, and get photos of the contractor’s business cards and vehicle license plates.
Here are some resources for persons who believe they have been victimized by crooked contractors and would-be charities:
* National Center for Disaster Fraud: 866-720-5721, firstname.lastname@example.org
* Department of Homeland Security / FEMA Fraud Hotline: 800-323-8603, https:www.oig.dhs.gov
* Federal Trade Commission: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-1