Steer Clear of Fraudulent Storm-Chasing Contractors

Left in the wake of Harvey, Irma and other hurricanes is the devastation of many buildings and homes. We have all witnessed the countless stories of heroism and communities are standing together to support one another in their time of need. Businesses and families will look to rebuild their lives, restoring their homes and offices. After structures are gutted for their water damaged belongings, the rebuilding process can slowly begin.

Just as we often see the best of people in times of tragedy, we also witness the worst in people. Areas affected by natural disasters are seen as opportunities for fraudulent building “experts” and contractors looking to cash in on disaster relief monies, charitable contributions and insurance policies. As people eagerly start the rebuilding process, they begin the search for reliable, affordable building experts. Specialists will be needed to assess mold and healthy living conditions, framing vulnerabilities, and clean air and water systems all while addressing safety concerns.

Following Hurricane Harvey, the Federal Trade Commission published a blog post citing  reputable charitable organizations to donate funds to help victims. The FTC’s response came after multiple reports of scams. Criminals and unscrupulous contractors know that uninformed donors are easy targets when looking to restore their homes and businesses. They might be easily  scammed into overpaying for services while contractors under deliver.

Some Important facts to ensure you get the best out of your contractors:

  • Be patient. Don’t rush into something without knowledge of your options. Get multiple quotes from reputable contractors.
  • Be Diligent in Your Research. Look for company reviews from third party websites such as Google reviews, Angie’s List, etc. Be skeptical of any websites or individuals that offer rebuilding services at a lower price point than average or ask to be paid in cash. The more research you do, the more comfortable you will be in your decision. Alleged fraudulent activity related to relief operations can be reported to the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721.
  • Speak with your contractors’ insurance agency. Make sure your contractors’ risk insurance certificate is up-to-date.
  • Consult trained professionals. Make sure your contractors are educated with the proper building codes required in your area. If your contractor is suggesting implementing new technologies or building processes, consult with a third party or subject matter expert who can provide objective guidance.

Managing the heartbreak and frustration of property loss or damage is difficult enough without additional loss or anguish  from illegitimate storm-chasing contractors. As cities and communities begin searching for ways to repair and rebuild, it is important to be diligent while selecting ways to start this process.