Warning! Be alert to Idalia disaster-related scams

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Many people will once again need debris removal, home repairs, or be dealing with mold as a result of Idalia. That tends to bring con artists out of the woodwork.

“Scammers may try to exploit this tragedy to rip off Floridians through contractor fraud, debris removal scams, price gouging or even looting,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody. “As the recovery efforts from Idalia get underway, Floridians impacted by this major storm event need to remain on alert.”

Moody’s office sent a warning to Floridians and offered the below advice.

When hiring a contractor:

  • Have an insurance company evaluate damage before arranging repairs to ensure that the work will be covered under a policy
  • Get at least three written, itemized estimates on bids or repairs
  • Watch out for unsolicited offers or contractors claiming to perform repairs at a discount with leftover supplies from another job
  • Research a company and its reputation. Is the company properly licensed and insured? Check for complaints filed against a licensed contractor at MyFloridaLicense.com
  • Make sure a contractor is bonded and verified with a bonding agency
  • Read the entire contract before signing; make sure it includes the required buyer’s right to cancel language. Understand cancellation penalties
  • Insist on releases of any liens that could be placed on the property from all subcontractors prior to making final payments
  • Never pay the full amount of a repair expense upfront
  • Do not sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until satisfied with the work

We will not allow criminals to exploit this crisis
to target Floridians trying to rebuild their lives. Ashley Moody

Scammers may pose as FEMA officials:

  • No state or federal disaster-relief agency will call asking for personal information
  • State and federal workers carry identification and will not ask for or accept cash
  • FEMA relief programs are free and can be accessed at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1(800) 621-FEMA
  • Be wary of anyone who offers to fill out, assist with or expedite an application

Water mains and wells:

Water mains and personal wells can be affected during hurricanes. Dishonest people may insist upon pricey tests to determine water safety.

  • Ask for proof of identification if someone claims to be a representative of a city, county or utility
  • Check for water safety alerts from your utility provider
  • If in doubt, boil water vigorously for one to three minutesā€”or drink bottled water

Tree removal and debris pickup:

  • Avoid unsolicited offers for tree removal
  • Get multiple written estimates and ask whether debris removal is included in the estimate
  • Research a company thoroughly
  • Check for proof of insurance and verify with the insurer that the policy is current
  • Never pay the full amount upfront
  • Do not make a final payment until completely satisfied with the work.

Charity scams and schemes:

  • Be wary of fake charities with similar names to well-known organizations
  • Avoid solicitors who use high-pressure tactics or are hesitant to provide information
  • Consider donating to an established disaster-relief charity
  • Contact the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1(800) HELP-FLA to check out a charity and whether it has any complaints

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