Avoiding post-hurricane damage — to your wallet


All of us have been impacted by Hurricane Irma to one degree or another. While my family and I personally incurred minimal damage, we have friends and other family members who are dealing with much worse.

One of the things I noticed in both the lead up to the storm, and the immediate aftermath, was the sense of community and service to others. While I believe most people fall into this category, a natural disaster like this unfortunately also brings out another type of person—the financial scammers.

It is important to be extra vigilant to protect yourself, your friends, and neighbors from these people. A few of the most common scams include:

1. Repair companies making offers
that are too cheap. These companies
lack proper licensing, training,
and insurance coverage, and are usually
looking for cash up front before
promising to begin any work. The old
rule applies—if it sounds too good to
be true, it probably is.

2. People asking you to sign
contracts where you are signing your
insurance claim rights over to them.
Never sign any document unless you
fully understand it and consult with
your insurance agent regarding the
full ramifications of your coverage.

3. Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) imposters—
wearing fake FEMA jackets—going
door-to-door, asking for money to assist
with the filing of federal flood
claims. FEMA will never go door-to door
in this capacity.

4. Robo-calls from FEMA imposters,
asking consumers to dial an
800 number to immediately make an
insurance payment to prevent their
policy from being cancelled. FEMA
will never call in this manner, nor require
that a consumer make a payment

5. Individuals or companies
asking you to “invest” in the recovery
process, by paying money into a supposed
startup repair company. They
will ask for money up front to be a
shareholder” in the company. These
people obviously have no intention of
doing anything other than pocketing
your money and running.

We are all familiar with the old saying, “Trust, but verify”. Verify, verify, verify! Ask for ID badges, take pictures of them, call the agency or company to confirm the person’s identity. Make sure that anybody you work with is licensed, and confirm the license numbers with the respective entity.

While we are at the mercy of Mother Nature, we can protect ourselves from these scam artists.

David Novak, CFP® is a Certified Financial PlannerTM at Novak & Powell Financial Services in Pinellas County. Please note: he is not an attorney and this article should not be construed as one offering legal advice. For information about investment decisions and financial planning, contact him at (727) 451-3440.


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