Charleston, W.Va. – Disasters attract a few trying to help themselves rather than those who suffered losses. Precautions can help those affected by the severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides of July 28-29, 2017 avoid being victimized.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) never charges for any of its disaster recovery services, nor does it endorse any commercial businesses, products or services.
West Virginia has a price gouging law that forbids businesses and contractors from raising their prices more than 10 percent above pre-disaster levels. It is enforced by the state’s Attorney General.
State and FEMA officials offer these consumer tips:
When hiring a contractor, ask for proof that the contractor has current general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Ask for references and check them before signing a contract.
Don’t pay in advance for more than half the repair costs. Don’t make the final payment until you are satisfied with the completed work.
Verify solicitations for disaster relief agencies by asking for the charity’s exact name, street address, phone number and web address. Phone the charity directly and confirm that the person asking for funds is an employee or an authorized volunteer.
Request a receipt.
FEMA and the U. S. Small Business Administration deal only with the homeowner or renter, not with an intermediary.
State and federal workers do not solicit or accept money from applicants for disaster assistance.
FEMA inspectors present photo identification. They are assigned to specific properties and have the applicant’s nine-digit FEMA registration number. They make appointments
to meet the applicant at the property. A FEMA inspector’s job is to verify the extent of eligible disaster-related damage. They don’t seek banking or other personal information, nor do they recommend contractors.
If you suspect fraud, call the FEMA Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721. If you are the victim of a home repair scam or price gouging, call the Office of the West Virginia Attorney
General at 800-368-8808.