Avoid fraud after Irma by doing your research before hiring a contractor
Now that Hurricane Irma has come and gone, a new danger could blow ashore: scammers posing as contractors and other workers, eager to get paid for work they have no intention of completing — or completing to code — on your storm-damaged property.
To avoid being taken advantage of when doing repairs and other cleanup, keep these tips in mind:
- Don’t hire anyone who rushes you or pressures you to sign a repair contract.
- Don’t pay in cash. A scammer might take the money and never be heard from again.
- Confirm that the contractor’s business is legal, licensed and registered. Request to see a business license and proof of insurance.
- Pay in installments. Wait for all repairs to be completed before making the final payment.
- Always get everything in writing. A legal contract is your safety net, should any issues arise.
After Hurricane Katrina, fraudsters were fixing up cars damaged by the flooding and selling them as used cars without disclosing the water destruction — leaving their victims with a lemon of a car.
Checking the car’s vehicle inspection number will help you identify if the vehicle had previous repairs or damage, or if it came from a flooded area.
Hurricane hacks: Advice from Islanders
For next hurricane season, consider these suggestions from your neighbors who gained valuable experience during Matthew and Irma.
- Buy/Prep more sandbags
- Tie down propane tanks
- Remove fan blades from outdoor fans
- Buy extra tarps to have on hand
- Buy a generator in the off-season
- Buy additional gas cans when demand is lower
- Buy hurricane shutters in the off-season - sized, labeled and test for easy installation
- Cover attic louvers with plywood to reduce pressure and eliminate uplift
- Make sure all operational shutters have latches
- Before county offices shut down, take all residential trash to drop off center. You don’t want smelly trash waiting when you return.
- Wash all laundry. Clean clothes make you feel better, especially if you have to go back to work before power is restored.
- Prepare more food in advance (if not evacuating) that doesn’t require electricity to reheat
- Buy tall rubber boots
- Have pre-packed totes with extra supplies to grab in a hurry, such as: toiletries, towels, blankets, flashlights, batteries, lighter, candles, important information for pets, etc.
- If evacuating - Leave a hidden key for any neighbors who might need to get in your house or garage for supplies, to borrow tools, take a shower, etc.
Special thanks to Chip Collins Realty of Hilton Head Island for gathering many of these tips.