Indiana residents who were affected by the flooding and severe winter storms that began Jan. 1 should be aware that some unscrupulous contractors might reportedly try to take advantage of them.
“If you have disaster-related damages, we urge you to be very careful when contracting for repairs,” said Ron Sherman, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) federal coordinating officer. “We do not want you to become a victim a second time.”
Residents should also remember that official government inspectors do not charge victims for their services. If someone posing as a FEMA representative attempts to collect money for their help, report the person and their vehicle number to the local police department.
“Be especially alert for door-to-door solicitors who ask for large cash deposits or entire payments in advance,” said Phil Roberts, state coordinating officer for the Indiana State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) “Sometimes the work is never performed or the down payment is never returned.”
Disaster officials cautioned residents not to sign contracts or make down payments without first receiving written estimates from contractors and to avoid offers which seem too good to refuse. People should ask for references and check with relatives or friends before deciding which contractor to choose.
Federal employees carry official photo identification and applicants may receive a visit from more than one inspector or verifier. If someone represents themselves as a federal employee but does not produce identification, residents are urged to ask to see it.
Residents may be able to check with local permit officials, builder associations, and the Better Business Bureau if they have questions about specific contractors.
Roberts also suggests that disaster victims call the Indiana State Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline, 1-800-382-5516, or visit their Web site at www.in.gov/attorneygeneral, if they have concerns about people representing themselves as contractors.
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