Editorial: Be careful of scammers as we recover from Florence

Florence’s catastrophic damage will mark this community for years to come. It is our fervent hope and desire that all will see their lives returned to and above the normalcy that was prior to last weekend.

We also hope our neighbors and friends are not a mark as a result of this storm. As much as we would like to dismiss such a negative, the facts are there and proven with pattern that following such horrific events there are those who come into our midst and would willingly deceive us.

Keep your guard up.

Scammers know that such adversity rips at the heart and soul of each of us. They prey upon that vulnerability.

There are many coming to help us. To take license and paraphrase Dennis Green, the late NFL coach, be sure they are who you think they are.

If someone is knocking and sees repairs are going to be needed, the pitch they make should be able to be confirmed before agreeing to any work. Anything free, from a licensed contractor, would sound too good to be true. Check it out. And on the other end, if it sounds too outrageously high, gouging is against the law and should be reported.

A deal that is offered “now or never” should be a red flag warning. Three estimates are a good rule of thumb, and credentials of companies or those self-employed should be on file with the state Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau.

These guides are also good for tree and debris removal.

The North Carolina Department of Justice has more detailed helpful tips at ncdoj.gov. Among the first things pointed out is that people will travel to an area to take advantage.

Yes, already we do have help from out of state. More will come, particularly through faith-based organizations. But in most of those cases, they will have something ready to offer clearly identifying them and their purpose.

When talking with your insurance company, know about the adjusters coming to see what happened. An adjuster may try to pressure you into unneeded work or repairs. They are not building inspectors or engineers. Before work is done, it is OK to get a second opinion.

Some in our community, however, may have been spared the worst and want to help others. In that case, be sure of the charities chosen. Our advice is to contact a charity of choice, rather than responding to solicitations.

If help in checking out charities is needed, consider going online to give.org, charitywatch.org, guidestar.org or charitynavigator.org. All of these are reputable and endorsed by the state DOJ.

Florence brought a lot of bad to our community and our state. Our first steps in recovery need to be free of any more adversity.