Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis warned Sunshine State residents to be wary of scam artists that target disaster victims.
Patronis also cautioned generous individuals and businesses to avoid fake GoFundMe-style accounts, recommending donations to the Florida Disaster Fund.
“You have these predators that will come in, and they will go door-to-door canvassing neighborhoods that they see the damage, and they will sign over their claims to contractors or they will have unscrupulous public adjusters, and you will complicate that claims process by adding a bunch of parasites that are going to damage your ability to get made whole any faster,” Patronis said during a broadcast interview. “So, there’s good ones in life and there’s bad ones. It’s a rule of numbers.”
“Unfortuanely in times like this, the bad ones show up in droves.”
The state’s chief financial officer added he has been pleading with Florida policyholders to call their agent or insurance carrier or call his office.
“This will be the best way to ensure that your claim is being handled properly,” he stated, “and my office, we love handling people’s claims, we do a great job at it.”
Several common sense actions homeowners impacted by Hurricane Ian can perform include getting multiple bids and getting bids in writing that include all costs, what work will be performed and the completion schedule.
Another state’s insurance department advises not accepting a bid just because it is the lowest, noting it could be so low because it is fraudulent. Catastrophe victims are also cautioned to be careful if the contractor arrives in an unmarked vehicle or solicits repair work by going door-to-door. Such aggressive contractors may be unlicensed, untrained or dishonest. Use reputable, established contractors in your area.
Never pay contractors in full before any work is done, because they may not complete the job. Some scam artists will never show up at all. Avoid paying cash, because doing so lets criminals escape detection from law enforcement. Pay by check or credit card, which allow payments to be stopped in cases where disputes arise.
“I’ve seen disasters bring out some of the best in humanity but unfortunately the worst in some,” Patronis said in a statement. “As we saw during the tragic Surfside building collapse, scam artists will use the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian to scam people for their own personal gain. It’s absolutely despicable, and the best way to avoid falling victim is to do your research before giving to any recovery fund or charity.”
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