The 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season is here, with NOAA predicting another above-average year. The word’s also going out to guard against storm-related scams in Florida.
“Our office has been extraordinarily creative and proactive, in making sure Floridians have the tools to protective themselves,” Moody said.
With 13 to 20 named storms predicted between now and November 30th, Attorney General Ashley Moody is out with her annual hurricane guide, with tips on how to avoid becoming the victim of a storm-related scam.
“Ways you can prepare your evacuation routes; ways you can ready your family,” said Moody. “It will recommend items to have on hand should a storm be approaching your community, although we would recommend you get those items on hand now.”
Fly-by-night contractors are also known to target consumers following a storm – leading to thousands of complaints to the AG’s price gouging hotline. Moody hopes the guide will help Floridians avoid scams before they happen.
“It allows us to get the information we need to make sure individuals or businesses don’t take advantage of a devastating crisis to go after profit, while Floridians are scrambling to ensure that their property and families are safe,” said the Attorney General.
Also available is the “No Scam” app, which was launched in 2019.
“It is available in English and Spanish; easy to download on your mobile app, and that will allow you to collect information,” said Moody. “And if you feel you have been victimized by fraud or price-gouging as a storm approaches, or immediately in the aftermath of a storm.”
On the heels of a hurricane or tropical storm, come the inevitable con artists and scammers, who aim to inflict even more pain and misery on those already having to deal with damage and loss.
“We call them ‘storm chasers’ -- they follow the storm,” said Tammy Ward with the Better Business Bureau’s Northwest Florida office. “As soon as the storm is out of the area and it’s safe for them to get out of their truck or car, they’re going to be in somebody’s neighborhood – knocking on your door – telling you that they can help you out.”
Some who offer services are legitimate, but others are not. The key, says Ward, is knowing which is which.
“Even if they’re in a different state, they could be contracted, they could be license in the state they’re coming from,” Ward said. “But if they’re not licensed in Florida, there’s always a possibility that you will have a problem getting anything out of them if you have an issue with them. So even though they say they’re licensed somewhere else, they really need to be license in the state of Florida.”
If and when you agree on the work to be done, Ward says do not pay in full in advance.
“If you have a legitimate contractor they may ask for half upfront, because
Another post-hurricane staple is price gouging. Where there is a law against it on the books in Florida, Ward says you still need to keep up your guard – especially when it comes to getting estimates to repair the damage to your property.
“You want to get at least three estimates, and then you can compare those prices and you can see if there’s just a little bit different in pricing, it’s probably the pricing and they’re being legitimate. But if you’ve got one of the three that is really much higher than the other two, then you would not want to go with because they are raising the prices beyond the limit that they are regulated to do.”
Others to avoid include those who use scare tactics and intimidation to force you into making decisions that you’re not quite ready to make.
“The person that needs something fixed right away -- that’s when they want to get them at their most vulnerable,” said the BBB’s Tammy Ward. “Take a step back and make sure that what you’re doing is going to be long-standing, and that you’re doing something with a legitimate contractor and/or another business provider.”