Don't become a victim of flood clean up scams

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

WALNNUT RIDGE, AR (KAIT) - Warnings are coming from the federal and local level urging those looking for help repairing their homes to use caution when choosing people to help.

"People unfortunately try to take advantage of folks during those times," said Lawrence County Sheriff, Jody Dotson.

That's why Lawrence County Sheriff Jody Dotson says during times of disaster make sure the person you hire isn't trying to make a bad situation, worse.

"We really haven't had a lot of this in our area but other areas have experienced this,
 said Dotson.

Dotson says arm yourself with the knowledge to help determine who's for real or real fake.

"Make sure they are who they say they are," said Dotson.

That means ask to see ID.

Don't fall for pushy or aggressive attempts to get inside your home.

Do your homework. Hire local if possible and check references before you say okay, that includes calling local lumber companies, for instance.

"That's going to be business for them so they're going to be glad to tell you yeah he'll do the work and if it's somebody that won't pay them and didn't do the job--they're going to tell you hey, he ain't no good," said Dotson.

Unfortunately, even during disasters, a criminal element is present.  They prey  upon vulnerable people.  Sheriff Dotson says if you see someone or something suspicious in your neighborhood, don't be afraid to pick up the phone.

"Give them a good vehicle description and any kind of information you can. We'll be glad to get out there and check it out to make sure it's not someone out there trying to rip people off," said Dotson.

According to FEMA, the most common post disaster fraud practices include phony housing inspectors.  If someone at your home claims to be from FEMA or the Small Business Administration, ask to see a badge or ID.  Don't give out bank account numbers.  FEMA inspectors never require banking information.

Also, beware of phony building contractors, and don't pay up front

Get estimates from at least three contractors and read the fine print.

Bogus pleas for post disaster donations and fake offers of state or federal aid are other post disaster fraud practices.

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