Common Post-Disaster Scams

After any disaster, there’s usually a second wave of problems that can occur in the form of what has become known as disaster fraud. People who want to contribute to the recovery are scammed by phony organizations, bogus emails, and fraudulent websites. And adding insult to injury, people who have suffered devastating home and property losses are often targeted by crooked contractors, fly-by-night home repair scammers, and identity thieves. That’s not all: in the months after a disaster, thousands of flood-damaged cars make their way to the market duping unwary consumers. (See our prior post: Consumer alert: don’t buy a flood-damaged car.)
Below, we’re including an excerpt from our EAP’s blog that offers useful links on common post-disaster charity and home repair scams. (For more resources, see their Hurricane Sandy Recovery Toolkit.
Sadly, there is no shortage of fraudulent opportunists willing to take advantage of people’s generous nature. Be particularly careful of solicitations via phone, email, or social networking sites. The FTC Warns Consumers: Charity and Home Repair Scams May Appear After a Disaster. See the FTC Charity Checklist to get tips on how to avoid scams. You can also check out more a charity in advance through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
Disaster Recovery Scams – The FTC talks about common disaster recovery scams.
After a Disaster: Repairing Your Home – If your house has been damaged by a natural disaster, you may look for a reputable contractor to help with repair and restoration. Inevitably, the demand for qualified contractors after a disaster usually exceeds the supply. Enter the home repair rip-off artist, who may overcharge, perform shoddy work or skip town without finishing your job. This guide from the Federal Trade Commission the Federal Emergency Management Agency offers tips for consumers who may be facing major repairs after a disaster.
Disaster Fraud – The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud discusses post-disaster contractors and adjusters fraud.
Report Fraud: The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.

Hurricane Sandy Tool kit: Preparation, tracking & insurance resources

The following are resources to help you track and prepare for Sandy – along with insurance related resources should you incur any damage. We’ve also included some good info gleaned from past hurricanes, if still relevant.
Storm Tracking
MSNBC Hurricane Tracker
Storm Central 2012 at the NOAAA
National Hurricane Center Facebook
Weather Underground – including co-founder
Dr. Jeff Masters WunderBlog
New England Emergency Resources
CT: @CTDEMHSConnecticut Deparment of Emergency Services
MA: @MassEMAMA Emergency Management Agency
ME: @MaineEMAMaine Emergency Management Agency
NH: @NHgovReadyNH
NY: @NYSDHSESNY Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services
RI: @RhodeIslandEMARI Emergency Management Agency
VT: @vemvtVT Emergency Management
Hurricane Preparation
It Is Not Too Late to Conduct a Home Inventory In Preparation for Hurricane Irene – Still relevant info
Common Sense Advice Before & After a Hurricane
Preparing an effective evacuation plan
Checklist for protecting your technology before & during a hurricane
Disaster Planning for Small Businesses – a checklist from the
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which covers key steps for preparation, as well as an overview of related insurance issues that you need to consider.
Hurricane Preparation Tips and Disaster Preparedness – from the Insurance Information Institute
Hurricane Safety Checklists – from the Red Cross
Insurance Matters
Homeowners Insurance Policies in Many Coastal States Affected by Sandy Have Hurricane Deductibles
Hurricane & Wind Storm Deductibles
Claims reporting: Direct links to Renaissance Alliance insurance partners claims reporting pages – list includes 40 of the state’s major insurers. If your insurer is not listed here, contact your independent agent or the Mass Division of insurance’s main number (617) 521-7794 or the Consumer Information Hotline (617) 521-7794.
Tips for claims reporting: What consumers should know when faced with a loss – Important, but sometimes difficult, filing a claim can be one of the most frustrating processes during a crisis or following a major disaster. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers tips for what your insurance company needs to help you avoid problems getting your claims paid.

Hurricane Preparation: Tips from the Pros

The eastern seaboard is thick in preparation for Hurricane Earl’s arrival. Wayne Wiersma of Wiersma Insurance Agency offers a link to an excellent one-page sheet from the folks at Harleysville Insurance: Common Sense Advice: Before & After a Hurricane. It offers planning time lines for 36 and 24 hours before a hurricane, as well as advice on what to do after a hurricane and how to report a claim. (Please note, however, that phone numbers listed are only valid if for Harleysville customers. For all others, it would be a good idea to have phone numbers handy for both your agent and your homeowners’ and auto insurance companies. ) The Insurance Information Institute also offers Hurricane Preparation Tips.
Here are a few other helpful links:
The National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center
Hurricane Tracker
FEMA’s Hurricane Response & Recovery
FEMA’s Business Emergency Preparation Resources

Preparing for catastrophes

With the anticipated landfall of Gustav, we’re thick into hurricane season, which continues through November 30. Homeowners in the hurricane belt here in the U.S. are preparing for what is expected to be an active September and October. Disaster relief organizations such as the Red Cross offer hurricane preparation advice, with information about a personal evacuation plan, including supplies that should be part of your emergency kit.
A few preparatory steps can also make filing insurance claims after the storm an easier process. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a special disaster preparedness section of their website, along with a one page tip sheet on Storm Preparedness: A Four–Step Process . Among their recommendations:

  • Review your insurance coverage in advance to understand what your insurance policy covers and what it excludes.
  • Take an inventory of your property – photos or videos can be helpful. They suggest storing photos on the web or with a relative.
  • Move all of your important documents to a safe location. Take them with you if you evacuate. Be sure to include the name of your insurance companies and agent, policy numbers and contact information.

And should your home or property suffer damage, NAIC’s guide to What Consumers Should Know When Faced with A Loss can also be very helpful.