As Floridians continue rebuilding and repairing their homes after our state got slammed by hurricanes Ian and Nicole, it’s important to beware of scammers who will inevitably prey on disaster victims.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s website offers a slew of good information for consumers when you’re rebuilding or repairing your home. Now that we’ve weathered two powerful storms in just six weeks, it’s more important than ever to do research to avoid being victimized by dishonest opportunists.
Here are a few tips from the Attorney General’s Office website myfloridalegal. com on how to protect yourself:
- Get multiple estimates—at least three, written estimates or bids on home repairs or remodels. Have your insurance company evaluate any damage to your home before you arrange repairs to make sure the work will be covered under your in- surance policy.
- Watch for red flags—such as anyone who approaches you unsolicited or a contractor who uses high-pressure sales tactics. A reputable contractor knows you’ll need time to consider your options and needs. If you finance work done in your home, read and understand all the loan documents before you sign them.
- Research companies thoroughly first, before signing a contract or paying a deposit. Ask your trusted friends and neighbors for references. Be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org to determine what others are saying about a company.
- Before hiring anyone to do work on your home, make sure they’re licensed: Visit the Department of Business and Professional Regulation website at myfloridalicense.com/dbpr Report suspected unlicensed activity by e-mailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com or calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline, 866.532.1440. Before signing, make sure the contract includes the required buyer’s right to cancel (within three days) language.
- Never pay the full amount of a repair up front and hesitate before providing large deposits.
Helping Others In Need:
If you want to donate money to help others who have suffered during these disasters, here are some quick tips about careful giving:
- Research a charity before donating. Search the organization’s name with the word scam. Use CharityNavigator.org
- When donating, use a credit card for extra protection;
- Avoid aggressive solicitors and urgent deadlines;
- Pay close attention to email addresses and website URLs—fraudulent sites will have slight changes from the legitimate sites;
- Keep records of all donations and transactions; and
- Don’t click on any suspicious links in e-mails or text messages soliciting money or financial information, even if it seems like it is for a good cause.
Do your research, be a smart customer, and contact us at the Volusia Sheriff’s Office or call 1.866.9.NOSCAM if a scammer takes advantage of your situation or your kindness!
If someone comes to your door offering services you didn’t ask for, call the VSO right away. We’re here for you.
As we celebrate holidays it’s a perfect time to remember our many blessings. I’m very grateful for the incredibly dedicated men and women, sworn officers and civilians, who work for the Volusia Sheriff’s Office. They protect our community and make me extremely proud.
Please be kind to your friends and family as well as yourself,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood