Watch for “Storm Chasers” Scammers warns County Consumer Protection Office
Each season brings with it a different set of challenges and different types of scammers. With summer in full gear and storm season seemingly at the peak of its often destructive powers Bucks County Consumer Protection director Mike Bannon is warning the public “storm chasers” are not to far behind.
Bannon said these scammers target communities ravaged by the throttling winds, torrential rains and flooding.
“With all the storms that we have been experiencing so far this spring, Bucks County Consumer Protection wants you to be aware that severe weather like heavy rain, hail or hurricanes can create opportunities for fraud. These scammers will try every avenue to try and take advantage of an area where residents were hit hard. They will reach out to the residents in these affected areas by calling on the phone, texting, emailing, and even going door to door” in communities throughput Lower Bucks County.
Here are a few important things, Bannon said, to keep in mind if you live in an area that has experienced storm damage;
- · Government agencies offering any type of storm-related assistance will NEVER call, text or email you asking for financial account information. There is no fee required to apply for or get disaster assistance from agencies like FEMA or any type of government official. If someone reaches out to you claiming to be a government official just hang up.
- · If your property was damaged due to a severe storm, and someone does contact you, look up the telephone number they are calling from or the government’s official website to make sure it is legitimate.
- · If someone does happen to show up at your door, they must provide official identification. Ask for this and take the time to call the phone number associated with his/her agency to make certain that the badge is official.
- · Never give your personal information without checking to make sure that you are talking with a legitimate source. Scam artists can sound very convincing.
· You should also be aware of problems with alleged home improvement contractors that may also go door to door. They may try to tell you that you have damage and that you can have your insurance to cover the cost. In most cases these contractors are not even based in your area; they follow the storms and, by the time you realize the job was not done properly, they are gone with no address or just a PO box which doesn’t help when you want to reach them. Then, to add insult to injury, they may charge more than what your insurance will cover. Even worse is, if you want to have their bad work repaired or redone, you may face resistance in hiring a different contractor who may not want to fix another’s subpar job and you will have to pay out of pocket.
· “In Pennsylvania, Home Improvement Contractors must be registered and have what is called an HIC#, which stands for Home Improvement Contractor number. They must register with the PA Attorney General and for a contractor to register, they must have proof of insurance and follow certain regulations to keep consumers safe. For more information on hiring a Home Improvement Contractor, please visit our websiteand click on ‘Consumer Tips,’ Bannon said.