January 22, 2019

Recent Scams Target Homeowners

With many New Englanders still suffering the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy, unscrupulous scam artists have been taking advantage of homeowners through various scams.  It’s important to know what to look for if you are approached by someone claiming to be a representative of the government, a contractor, or relief fundraiser.  It’s unfortunate that scams like these target people who are already the victims of some kind of disaster, but by staying aware you can protect yourself and your neighbors.

First, it’s important to keep in mind that any government representative or agent will carry an official, laminated ID card.  A shirt or jacket marked with FEMA, for example, is not a reliable indicator of identity.  If you are in doubt of a person’s authenticity, write down the information on his or her ID card and follow up with that agency to confirm the person’s assignment to your area.  Second, keep in mind that no government official will ever ask for your bank account information.  If you suspect someone of posing as a representative of FEMA or other government agency, write down a description of the individual as well as their vehicle and contact local authorities.  Do not directly confront anyone.

Following a natural disaster of any kind, homes with visible damage tend to be targeted by individuals claiming to be contractors.  They will knock on your door and offer to complete repairs or remove downed trees with an upfront fee or deposit.  Once they have your money, they either never return or poorly finish part of the job before disappearing.  If you are approached by a contractor or someone asking for work, never agree to hire him or her without checking into the business they claim to represent.  Ask for a business card and ensure the person is licensed and insured.  A website is not an indication of a legitimate business; a simple website is easy to create literally overnight.  A reliable contractor will be able to supply license information and references.  Always follow up on these details and avoid the temptation to go for a quick fix.

Finally, be wary of individuals collecting money for relief or charities following a disaster.  It’s a good idea to save your monetary donations for organizations such as the Red Cross or other community funds you are familiar with and trust.  If someone solicits donations, they should be able to provide documentation showing a history of legitimate and honest fundraising.  If you are at all in doubt, ask for information that will allow you to donate at another time.  This will give you the chance to research the organization before making any kind of donation.

One of the benefits of living in a community and having relationships with neighbors is the ability to take care of each other.  Keep an eye out for your neighbors and talk to them of any concerns you have or suspicious activity you see.