Volusia County, FL – As everyone works to recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, residents need to be on their guard as scam artists look to prey on those in need of help.
According to VCSO, Hurricane Matthew has already cost Volusia County 4 lives and at least $325 million in damage. And as if that weren’t bad enough, the days and weeks following a hurricane are great opportunities for scam artists to take advantage of people’s misfortunes. “There are scam artists looking to take advantage of you,” said Andrew Gant, Public Information Officer with VCSO. “A lot of them are gonna ask for cash up front. They may have business cards and look professional, they may say they’re licensed and insured, but in a lot of cases they aren’t. If you give them that cash up front you won’t see your money again and you may not see them again either, because most of the time they don’t come back to do the work.”
Some scammers will drive through neighborhoods and offer to remove a tree or provide other cleanup services, but at a ridiculous cost. A scammer may offer to remove a tree for $4,000 – a job that should cost around $500.
Anyone who thinks they’ve been the victim of a scam can call VCSO at 386-248-1777.
To see if a contractor is locally licensed or state certified, or to report unlicensed contracting, call Volusia County’s Contractor Licensing Office at 386-737-5957, and select option 2. You can also go to the County’s Connect Live Site at ConnectLivePermits.org and click on the contractor tab. Another option is to search for state-certified or registered contractors by going to MyFloridaLicense.com/DBPR and clicking on the “Verify a license” tab. You can also report unlicensed activity at that link.
For a list of other common post-storm scams, go to ConsumerReports.org.
Price gouging is another common issue during emergencies. Food, ice, gas, and lumber are all common commodities that are subject to price gouging.
If you suspect price gouging, get as much info as you can through estimates, invoices, receipts and bills. Take note of all other details not already in writing. Report this info to the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 866-9NO-SCAM, or 866-966-7226. You can also go to MyFloridaLegal.com or mail the necessary documents to the Office of the Attorney General at The Capitol, PL-01, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050. Be sure to include your name, the name of the company or individual in question, and a complaint number if you have one.
Copyright Southern Stone Communications 2016.