Make no mistake. Scam artists are always lying in wait for their next opportunity to strike. Sadly, natural disasters that destroy property and take innocent lives are as good a time as any for a scammer to creep from the shadows.
You are a much easier target for home repair scams when you are distressed. A flood that has invited itself into your living room. A tornado that has snatched the roof off of your house. And even the recent passing of a loved one. These are all “opportunities” to a scammer. As twisted as it sounds, it’s really the “perfect storm” for their corruption to flourish.
In the wake of a natural disaster, you have a long list of things to take care of. But our Asurea Scam Report wants to add one more thing to your list. Watch out for the other type of natural disaster — the scam artist. Because they can make a bad situation so much worse.
Here, we look at some recent natural disasters that have twisted and flooded their way across the US. And how scam artists are trying to use them to their advantage.
Texas tornadoes: Taming the twisted aftermath
The day after Christmas 2015, up to 11 different twisters ripped through Dallas and other northern Texas towns. In their wake, they left a trail of debris, damages and 11 deaths, including an infant. Luckily, Asurea’s Dallas office in the nearby City of Irving, dodged the destruction.
“The tornadoes hit about 15 to 20 miles from the office,” said Asurea’s Dallas Area Manager, Jason Ditson. “Definitely close to home.”
When Mother Nature pushes her power around, it’s only human nature to push back. Throughout history, humans have fought and survived fires, earthquakes, floods and tornadoes. Even the fights we lose tend to lead to new safety measures; improved early-warning systems, new rescue protocols and updated evacuation practices are common responses.
But our response to the natural disaster of the scam artist needs some serious tweaking. Many residents are rushing to repair their homes as quickly as possible. But they could be rushing right into the self-serving embrace of a scammer.
A scammer would offer to repair the one shingle you lost in the storm at a ridiculous price. And then they would take your money without repairing the shingle!
Missouri floods: Preventing more misery in Missouri
When your business or even living room couch is floating in several feet of water, it can be tricky to tell if the person who offers to fix your home or shop is an honest repair-person — or a shady scam artist. That’s exactly what homeowners across Kansas City, MO could be facing right now.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has declared a state of emergency across the state. As of the writing of this article, widespread flooding has taken at least 20 lives. And according to the Associated Press, more flooding is expected while river levels continue to rise around the state.
As you might be able to predict, our Asurea’s Scam Report wants to warn you of the scammers out there who are plotting to get their paws on your money. We know you want to get your life back in order, your house repaired, your peace of mind restored. But don’t rush into anything.
Before you sign on anybody’s dotted line, check out these ways to spot a scam before it spots you.
After the storm: Sheltering you from home repair scams
After the thunder clouds roll away, the Texas attorney general’s office wants you to stay protected from all natural-disaster scams. Here’s what they suggest:
- Get several estimates for repair work and take your time signing any contracts.
- Check the contractor or company’s standing with the Better Business Bureau.
- Get references from past customers — and check them.
- Jot down the salesperson’s license plate number.
- Avoid out-of-town businesses. They may be tough to track down for repairs or refunds.
- Total cost, proposed work and payment terms should be in writing; keep copies.
- A “notice of cancellation” lets you legally change your mind within three business days. It’s Texas law to include this document if the transaction occurs at your home. In your state, this may be called a “Notice of Right to Cancel” or a “Three-day Notice to Cancel.”
- Don’t sign a contract with blanks. A scammer can pencil in unacceptable terms later on.
- Ask for proof of disability and workers’ compensation insurance, or else, you could be liable for a worker’s injury that occurs on your property.
- Make sure you approve of the work before paying in full. A shady worker could take the money and run before the whole job is completed. And remember, reputable contractors won’t threaten you or pressure you to sign until they know you’re satisfied with the work.
If you think you’ve fallen victim to a home repair scam, contact your state’s attorney general’s office. And if you’re in Texas, you can report a home repair scam to the Office of Attorney General Ken Paxton at (800) 252-8011.
For more articles on insurance scams
Read the rest of this article on the Asurea Scam Report.