Avoid Scams After the Louisiana Flood of 2016

Posted on Posted in Post-Flood Advice

Unfortunately, many impostors or bad actors appear when people are in need and attempt to take advantage of their desperate situation. It’s common for these bad actors to flock to areas that are in a state-of-emergency and attempt to peddle services they are neither qualified for nor licensed in performing. For those just trying to put their lives back together after a flood, these bad actor services may seem like an ideal solution to their current problem. The bad actors can offer services such as home drying services, after flood insurance, home repair work, and auto repair, but the services are usually poorly performed and leave the customer in a worse state than before. To avoid scam companies or individuals that thrive in desperate times, use local vetted companies and stay vigilant for the warning signs.


Price Hikes

Bad actors will increase prices to ridiculous amounts and convince people that it is due to the supply and demand balance during the state-of-emergency. This usually applies to perishable goods and does not represent the larger market. This can also apply to services. If you expect price hikes, report it to local authorities and always get multiple price quotes for services. Also, keep any receipts you obtain when you purchase goods or services with price hikes so you are able to show proof to the authorities when you report the bad actor.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of price gouging, please contact the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office Consumer Information Hotline at 1-800-351-4889.


No Local Address

Companies or people trying to scam those in need often will not have a local address because they are not planning on being in town for long. Always ask for the location of a company you are getting services from and beware of companies who do provide an address, as they can be fake. To verify a company, check for the address online to ensure the company has an actual local base and it is not an empty lot. You can ask for the company’s website details, how long they’ve been in business, and previous customer reviews as well.


Instant Repair

Good work takes time so if anyone promises instant repairs then they are probably not acting in good faith and are providing a poor service. Instant fixes, especially when pertaining to water damage, do not exist. For contractor work, mold remediation, and other technical work, services take time to be done properly. To avoid a scam, always ask to see proof of insurance, any required licenses, and require a contract before any work is done. You should also avoid a large down payment and keep receipts after you pay. Don’t pay in cash and write checks to a company, never an individual.

The Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors is urging customers to protect themselves from unlicensed individuals offering to make home repairs. Consumers can verify the licensure of contractors by either calling the LSLBC at 1-800-256-1392, by downloading the free “La Contractor” mobile app or by visiting the LSLBC website.


Pleas for Help

A lot of people affected by the flood or who want to help people affected by the flood start charities or ask for support through donations on a fundraising platform. Unfortunately, a lot of people not affected by the flood or who are looking for easy cash do the same thing. To avoid giving donations to someone scamming people for money, do research on the individual or charity asking for support. Check their website, their Facebook, and other online profiles for information that will prove whether or not they are actually in need of help or helping those in need. Look for reviews, call them and find out specific information about where the money is going and for what reason, and dig deeper into what they are trying to accomplish. If the person or charity is not able to answer specific questions or if something doesn’t quite add up, find a different charity or person to support.


Unnecessary Fees

Fake government officials or company representatives are common after a flood or natural disaster. Bad actors use the fake authority to gain access to people’s homes and steal possessions and identities. They can also charge people fees that are unnecessary. Inspection fees, application fees, recovery fees, or other fees that sound bogus are common and are used by the bad actors to obtain quick money and never follow up with actual services. Ask for identification of anyone entering your home and verify they work for the company or government they claim to represent.


Local business owner Tina Mancuso with Gateway Roofing stated, “In sad times such as this it is important to be vigilant! There are companies that will hurriedly relocate to our area to prey upon the uninformed and desperate! Or some will do business here who are under investigation or suspension, and go unnoticed by the contractors boards for months and you will never know. Please do business with a local company, {all trades} who will be there after the high demand goes away to take care of you if you have any problems.”


The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has compiled a booklet with tips, information and a model contract. You can download it here. In the aftermath of the flood, be aware of who you do business with and protect yourself and others from scams by remembering these warning signs and passing on the information to others who have been affected by the flood.

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