Attorney General Landry, BBB warn flood victims against scam artists

After flood, consumers urged to be on the lookout for scams

(WVUE) - As if the property loss and human suffering in Louisiana due to the massive flooding are not enough, victims must also guard themselves from crooks.

Lessons learned from past natural disasters are instructive.

"I can guarantee you, and normally I won't say that after this disaster if it hasn't started already - it has, probably - that they will be coming from other states, there are storm chasers, not all storm chasers are bad, but you have to be very cautious," said Cynthia Albert with the New Orleans Better Business Bureau.

In areas where the flood has abated, people rip out damaged walls and furnishings, and many are understandably anxious for some semblance of normalcy. But Attorney General Jeff Landry cautions against snap judgment in hiring contractors.

"Make sure you always get bids, never pay with cash, always pay with a check or a money order, photograph that check or money order, so that you have proof of that particular payment," he said.

The BBB echoes that advice.

"Please don't rush into it. I know everyone wants to get it done quickly, but make sure you're dealing with a reputable contractor, roofer, etc," said Albert.

Landry urges flood victims to get all contracts for repairs and rebuilding in writing, and even bring social media into the picture, if possible.

"We've got a program out where we encourage people to take a selfie with their contractor, take a picture of him, take a picture of his vehicle and his license," said Landry.

Contractors should be licensed to perform the service they offer and have insurance.

Landry said consumers should check with the Louisiana Licensing Board for Contractors before employing a contractor.  The BBB may also have information on a particular business.

"If we have a report, a business review report on them it would tell you if they are licensed and you want to look for that insurance also," Albert said.

And she said limit how much money is paid in advance once a decision has been made about which contractor to use.

"Actually, no more than 10 percent up front you want to pay, that's after you check out the company," said Albert.

It is not a good idea to do someone who goes door-to-door soliciting work.

"If someone knocks on your door and they say they can get this job done quickly for you and if they want quite a bit of money up front, these are really telltale signs," said Albert.

After Hurricane Katrina, scams went through the roof.

"If they take your FEMA you don't have anything left," said Albert.

Fake charitable groups pop up after natural disasters, as well.

"We want to make sure that people are donating to charities that go to the intended victims," said Landry.

He and Albert said the website, is a good way to check on charities.

"It will give you information whether, or not it meets the Better Business Bureau's standards," said Albert.

Landry said his office has numerous informational resources, as well.

The AG also has a hotline to report fraud. The number is 1-800-351-4889.

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