Dear Fellow Floridians:
As I have traveled across Florida, visiting with law enforcement, local leaders and families that were impacted by Hurricane Irma, I've witnessed a true sense of community and service in our state. Sadly, storms tend to bring out the best -- and the worst -- in people. As you continue your recovery, be on the lookout for opportunistic scammers who may try to cheat you.
The sad fact is that there are people who will attemptto take advantage of our fellow Floridians during this time, so even if your home or business was spared, keep your eyes and ears peeled for your friends and neighbors.
First and foremost, if a repair company makes an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is and could be fraud. Fly-by-night repair companies that lack proper training, licensing and insurance coverage, may make you an offer that sounds far cheaper than any other company in town. Don't fall for it! The work provided by these fly-by-night companies is likely to be sub-par, and it might have to be re-done down the road, costing you even more money.
Make sure you are hiring only licensed professionals by verifying your contractor's license, using the Department of Business and Professional Regulation'sonline tool.
Next, be clear on the details of all contracts you are asked to sign. Ask questions until you know how much the work is going to cost, what work is going to be performed, and whether you or your insurance company will be responsible for payment. Do not inadvertently sign your insurance claim rights over to a repair company by signing a document that you didn't understand.
Part of your rebuilding efforts may also include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. Several FEMA scams were reported in North Florida after Hurricane Hermine, as well as in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.
Keep an eye out for the following things:
- FEMA imposters going door-to-door, asking for money to assist with the filing of federal flood claims. FEMA does not charge for this service and does not go door-to-door in this capacity.
- Robocalls from FEMA imposters, asking consumers to hang up and dial a 1-800 number to make an insurance payment ASAP to prevent policy cancellations.
To better protect yourself, verify the identity of all individuals claiming to represent government and relief agencies or insurance companies. Official personnel should display their ID badges, should provide identification without hesitation upon request, and say why they are in the area. If you suspect that someone is impersonating official personnel, contact the local police department or sheriff's office immediately.
Our Insurance Consumer Helpline is a great resource, so make sure you have our number saved (1-877-MY-FL-CFO). Insurance experts are available to assist home and business owners with all insurance-related questions and concerns from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Suspected fraud can be reported via the Helpline.
Hard work is being done by leaders at the local, state and federal level, and that hard work will continue until every Floridian has recovered from this storm. Be a scam smart customer, and remember, if you see something, say something, and report any suspected fraud.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida