Beware of hurricane-related scams

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

ELIZABETHTOWN — As communities like Bladen County clean up after Hurricane Florence, Bladen County Sheriff Jim McVicker has a warning for residents.

“I urge you to be aware of criminals who will seize this opportunity to prey on our citizens,” he said in a news release. “Many people, especially the elderly, can become victims of scams following a natural disaster.”

After a storm, it is common for scammers to show up to take advantage of citizens, because they know reputable contractors will be overwhelmed with work. There are often three different types of fraudulent activity following a natural disaster: home repair scams, price gouging and charity scams.

Recommended tips include:

• Always get the estimate in writing.

• Consider getting multiple estimates. Ask for references.

• Avoid paying money up front.

• Resist all attempts that force you to make an on-the-spot decision.

• Never pay in cash.

• Use local contractors, even if this means being placed on a wait list. Make sure the contractor is insured.

Scammers often go door to door, offering to do work at low prices in exchange for a deposit. Once the deposit is obtained, the contractor never returns to complete the work.

Price gouging occurs when an individual charges excessive prices for goods or services during a state of emergency. Price gouging is prohibited by law, and civil penalties may apply to individuals engaged in this type of activity.

Tips for giving to charity include:

• Donate only to charities known and trusted.

• Do not give or send cash to any organization.

• Do not give out any personal or financial information.

The Department of Justice can be contacted at 877-5-NOSCAM, and a complaint can be filed online at ncdoj/gouging. The National Center for Disaster Fraud can be reached at 877-623-3423 or disaster@eAAQY.

Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal