Officials warn residents to be on the lookout for scams as rebuilding process begins

As people begin the process of cleaning, repairing and rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Irma, local and state officials say residents should take measures to protect themselves from scams and fraud.

 

“After a natural disaster, consumers should be wary of tree service scams, building and home repair scams, disaster relief scams, and water testing and treatment scams,” reads a news release from Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office that was posted online on Monday.

It’s a message that St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar said he wants people to keep in mind in the coming days.

“We haven’t gotten any reports yet,” Shoar said Wednesday.

But, just as he warned last year after Hurricane Matthew, he suspected they would eventually surface.

The danger, Shoar said, is that people get desperate and are in a rush to get their lives put back together and end up hiring somebody who isn’t trustworthy or may not have the proper licensing.

“That’s how people get ripped off,” he said.

“If you don’t know who you are hiring, do your due diligence” he warned.

Bondi’s release says that after an event like Irma “qualified contractors are in high demand, making things ideal for scam artists” and offered a number of tips for people who find their homes damaged.

First among those is to be skeptical of “unsolicited offers or contractors claiming they can perform repairs at a discount with leftover supplies from another job.”

Others include verifying with insurance companies that the work will be covered and ensuring that the contractor has the proper licensing and is bonded by verifying with the bonding agency.

“Do not sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until you are satisfied with the work performed,” the release says.

To avoid tree service scams, Bondi’s office recommends that homeowners never pay for the full job upfront and that they get multiple estimates and ensure that the quote includes debris removal.

If residents are worried they may have fallen victim to a scam, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office says they can request for a deputy to respond by calling 904-824-8304. For general questions about possible scams, they can call the same number and ask for community affairs.

More information is also available at the Attorney General’s website at www.myfloridalegal.com.

Scams can be reported to Bondi’s office by calling 866-9NO-SCAM.

 

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