BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – State leaders want you to be on the lookout for scammers as many work to repair their homes following Hurricane Ida.
“Unfortunately, natural disasters can attract opportunists and scammers hoping to prey on people who are down on their luck,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry. “So my office and I are working to help protect Hurricane Ida victims from contractor fraud, fake officials, and other criminal activity.”
Whether you’re repairing a broken roof or damage from a fallen tree, you will most likely need help with repairs, but Press Secretary Cory Dennis from the Attorney General’s office is warning you to be cautious.
“Natural disasters obviously bring out some of the best in people, but unfortunately it also brings out some of the worst,” Dennis said.
The AG’s office gives tips on how to protect yourself:
- Take many pictures. Photograph your contractor, his vehicle, his license plate, and his credentials.
- Get multiple estimates. Be certain each bid is on the exact same work, is itemized, and is detailed.
- Do not agree to large down payment. Know that reputable contractors normally do not require down payments over 25% of the total price.
- Get guarantee in writing. Do not accept verbal agreements and make sure any changes in the contract are also in writing and initialed by both parties.
- Ask for ID. Verify credentials especially since some con artists portray themselves as government officials or insurance adjusters in order to obtain access into your home.
- Give carefully. Be wary of charities that arise immediately after a natural disaster and check out other quick tips.
- Do not pay cash. Whether giving to charity or reimbursing a contractor, pay by check or money order and keep your receipt.
“Take a picture of their credentials, ask questions, get a couple of bids, don’t feel like you’re pressured. In a lot of times, you are in dire situations people want to get things fixed quickly, but take a step back, take a breath, don’t get pressured,” said Dennis. “Bad actors will come in, one posing as maybe a FEMA official, or something of that nature, a contractor might come in and promise a bunch of work to get done, and it not get done, they might try to ask you for a large down payment.”
Dennis says if you do end up getting scammed, you might not get your money back.
“Once the money has exchanged hands or left your account, it’s hard to get it back and it’s sometimes harder to hold those people to justice,” said Dennis.
Unfortunately, older adults often are targets, but Dennis says it can happen to anyone.
“You know you always think that it won’t happen to you, but it can truly happen to anyone, young and old,” said Dennis.
Attorney General Landry also encourages anyone who suspects fraud to report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling 1-866-720-5721.