In the aftermath of every natural disaster comes a wave of manmade misfortune. Con artists flock to ravaged areas to take advantage of vulnerable people.
As cleanup after Superstorm Sandy gets underway, beware of people out to make a quick buck -- whether it's through bogus repair scams or the sale of cars fit that should be on the scrap heap.
Here are tips to avoid getting duped.
1. Beware of unsolicited repair offers and other red flags
As soon as the clouds lift, "storm chasers" descend on hard-hit neighborhoods, going door-to-door offering their services.
"We use the slogan, 'If you didn't request it, reject it,'" says Frank Scafidi, spokesperson for the National Insurance Crime Bureau. "If someone comes knocking on your door, they could be legitimate, but they could be very illegitimate, too."
Shady, unlicensed repair people do shoddy work, use inferior materials, or collect money and leave without finishing the work. Don't let the sense of urgency to start repairs tempt you to hire someone on the spot. Get a list of recommended licensed contractors from people you trust.
Other red flags:
- Contractors who claim to work for the government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn't endorse contractors or loan companies.
- Repair people who don't have a company street address, only a post office box, and don't have business cards and company literature.
- People who offer to inspect your property before you've checked them out. Some bogus contractors inflict or invent damage to make more money.
- Contractors who vave rundown equipment and unprofessional appearance.
- People who try to rush you into a decision.
2. Contact your home insurance company
Don't let a contractor elbow his way in between you and your insurance company, advises the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. Distrust contractors who say they'll work on your behalf with your insurance company to get more money for the claim or to pay the deductible.