JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricane Sally brought destruction to property and upended the lives of thousands of Floridians and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody wants to make sure those are further hurt by people trying to take advantage of them.

Sadly, these events often bring with them a wave of fraud and other types of crime. Anyone who steals from Floridians in this time of crisis will be caught and prosecuted. My office and local law enforcement will work tirelessly to protect Floridians, but citizens can help by taking steps to protect themselves.

Attorney General Ashley Moody

According to Moody’s office, after a natural disaster consumers should be wary of tree service scams, building and home repair scams, disaster relief scams and water testing and treatment scams. Since Florida is very prone to natural disasters and major storms, Floridians should be aware of what to look for.

Building Repair and Contractors: After a disaster, there are many opportunities for con-artists to take advantage of people trying to find help. One of the main ones would be a contractor who is in a high-demand business. If your home is damaged, be sure to follow these tips when hiring a contractor:


Assignment of Benefits: Many contractors may ask you to complete an Assignment of Benefits which allows the homeowner who holds the insurance policy to sign over their insurance rights or benefits to the contractor or other third parties. The contractor or third party can then file an insurance claim, make repair decisions and collect on benefits without the homeowner’s involvement. While AOB’s can offer convenience to policyholders attempting to navigate the insurance claims process, unscrupulous individuals and companies may seek to take advantage of the power an AOB provides. If your home is damaged, keep the following in mind as you seek to make repairs:

  • Be wary of any company that pressures you to sign or insists upon the use of an AOB in order to do repairs
  • Read the entire contract carefully to ensure you are not signing over your benefits without your full knowledge and consent
  • Do not sign an AOB if there are blank spaces in the document
  • New laws effective July 1, 2019, allow AOB’s to be rescinded within 14 days of execution of the AOB, or within 30 days after the scheduled work start date if the assignee has not begun substantial work. Or, if no start date is listed, a new AOB can be rescinded at least 30 days following the execution date if the assignee has not begun substantial work

Tree Service Scams: Heavy winds from a hurricane or tropical storm results in littered roads and uprooted trees. If you plan to have nearby trees removed to protect your home from danger or have fallen trees removed after a storm, follow these tips to avoid being scammed:

  • Watch out for anyone who approaches unsolicited about tree removal
  • Get multiple written estimates and ask whether debris removal is included in the estimate
  • Research the company and its reputation–ask for references. Contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 1(866) 9NO-SCAM to check if there are complaints against the company
  • Check for proof of insurance and verify with the insurer that their policy is current
  • Never pay the full amount upfront and do not make a final payment until you are completely satisfied with the work done.

Charity Scams: This scam is particularly effective after a disaster, during which numerous disaster-specific charities pop up. If you would like to donate to help with disaster relief, consider these tips:

  • Avoid solicitors that use high-pressure tactics or are hesitant to provide additional information on the charitable organization
  • Be wary of charities with similar-sounding names. Some phony charities may attempt to capitalize on disasters by using names similar to legitimate, well-known charities
  • Consider donating to an established disaster-relief charity
  • Contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office or the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (1-800-HELP-FLA), the agency that regulates charities, to determine if the charity you are donating to has any complaints against them

Disaster Relief Scams: The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers disaster relief to eligible victims through various programs. When seeking aid, consider the following:

  • No state or federal disaster relief agency will call you for your financial information
  • State and federal workers carry identification and will not ask for or accept cash
  • Know that applications for federal FEMA relief programs are free and can be accessed at DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1(800) 621-FEMA
  • Be wary of anyone who offers to fill out, assist with or expedite your application as they may be seeking access to your personal information

Water Testing and Treatment Scams: Water mains and personal wells can be affected during hurricanes, and dishonest companies and individuals may insist upon pricey tests to determine water safety.

Avoid falling victim by following these tips:

  • If someone claims to be a representative of your city, county or utility provider needing to inspect your water line or well, ask for and verify proof of identification
  • Check for water safety alerts as provided by local media and utility providers
  • If you doubt the safety of your water, contact your local health department or utility. Local water utilities are required to test water quality on a regular basis
  • If you doubt the safety of your well water, seek advice from your state or local health department to determine what tests should be performed and find certified testers in your area
  • If in doubt, boil water vigorously for one to three minutes or drink bottled water

The state of emergency declared Hurricane Sally is still in effect, so Florida’s prices gouging law still applies to anyone who sells essential commodities or provides essential services to customers.

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