It says scammers usually come out following natural disasters.
We're often told that natural disasters or other emergencies bring out the best in people. But it can also bring out the worst in some individuals. After Hurricane Sandy, scammers came out in force. "Early on the days right after the event hit, we had individuals in the lower Eastern Shore area identifying themselves as FEMA representative, and they were not," says Ron Roth, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
He says if your home was damaged following Hurricane Sandy or any other disaster, and you're approached by individuals claiming they're from FEMA, ask for their photo ID's. "Every federal employee that's out it in the field will have a photo ID with them and it should be displayed prominently," Roth says. "If it's not, ask to see it."
Roth also says imposters may ask for some sort of bribe, which is not something FEMA employees will not do. Con artists can also pose as insurance specialists or expeditors, and claim they can get FEMA to increase home repair damage estimates, or get the agency to pay a larger settlement. Roth say FEMA deals directly with each applicant. He also says housing inspectors contracted by FEMA assess damages. They do not do estimates.
When it comes time to have your home repaired, FEMA recommends you deal with licensed contractors, and get more than one estimate before the work begins. "Most contractors are more than willing to give you an estimate up front without a fee involved. They generally warranty their work. Definitely get something in writing," he says.
And check references. "Ask for those references to make sure that people that they've dealt with in the past are happy with the work that they've done," says Roth.
Following disasters like Hurricane Sandy or the deadly shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, bogus charities sprang up, taking advantage of Americans' good will. But Roth says ask some very important questions of any organization which contact you by phone or e-mail before writing out a check. "How do you I get a hold of you? What's your address? What's your phone number? How is the money being spent," he says. "If it's a legitimate organization, they're going to have no problem providing you with that information. The scammer is going to be real reluctant to give you personal information because they know you can go on line to verify that information. And if they're scamming you, they're going to be caught."
Every charity which operates in Maryland must be registered with the Secretary of State's office. Citizens who want to find out more information on a charity can go to the Maryland Attorney General's Office website at www.oag.state.md.us/nonprofits/index.htm. They can also call 1-888-743-0023.