Many Indiana communities have come together to help recover from Sunday’s tornado outbreak. Unfortunately, disasters like this can attract scam artists and identity thieves who try to take advantage of Hoosiers. Indiana residents should remain cautious of any unsolicited offers of assistance.
Here are some tips to avoid being scammed:
- Ask for ID. If someone represents themselves as a federal or state employee, such as an inspector, but doesn’t produce identification, ask to see it. A shirt or jacket is not absolute proof. Federal and state employees carry official photo identification.
- Safeguard personal information. Do not give personal information such as social security and bank account numbers to individuals claiming to be affiliated with the federal or state government. Inspectors never require this information.
- Government representatives are never allowed to accept money. If someone claiming to be a government employee or a contractor attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and their vehicle number to your local police department.
- Be suspicious of anyone who offers to increase the amount of your disaster damage assessment.
When hiring a contractor:
- Research. You may also check with the local Better Business Bureau, homebuilders’ association or trade council to see if the contracting firm has unanswered complaints against it.
- Check references. Contractors should be willing to provide names of previous customers. Call several former customers who had similar work done to make sure they were satisfied with the job.
- Ask for proof of insurance. If a contractor is uninsured, you may be liable for accidents on the property. Make sure the contractor has disability and workers’ compensation insurance.
- Ask for a written estimate and check to make sure it includes all the work you expect to have done, as well as taxes and other fees. Keep in mind that some contractors charge for an estimate.
- Get a written contract. Make certain it includes the price, payment schedule, detailed description of the work and timeline for its completion.
- Never pay for the entire project before the work begins.
Anyone who believes they may have been victim of a scam should contact local authorities.