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Scam Artists Attempt To Prey On Disaster Survivors

Hunt Valley, Md. –Fraud and scams are age-old issues that surface in the aftermath of any disaster. Using old and new methods, scam artists seek to obtain vital information or take advantage of survivors focused on recovery.Maryland residents need to be on alert. Some of the most common scams after a disaster include:

Home Repair Scams

Unregistered home improvement contractors may take the disaster survivor’s money and disappear, leaving unfinished work and unsafe homes. Before hiring a contractor, the survivor should check with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office at (888) 743-0023 to make sure the contractor is registered, as well as ask for a copy of the contractor’s liability insurance and verify the policy is valid. All contracts should be in writing, and reviewed before being signed. Full payment should not be made until the work is completed.

The local police department should be notified of suspected fraud.

Price Gouging

Excessive price increases are illegal. Check with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office at www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/index.htm  or call (888) 743-0023 if you suspect the prices are too high.

Identity Theft

People may pretend to be employed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or other government agencies, such as the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) or public utilities. By going door-to-door to storm-damaged homes, or by phone or on the internet, con artists may try to obtain personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers.

Remember:

False Payment or Bribe

Imposters may ask for some form of service payment, or bribe – something no FEMA, SBA or federal agency employee should ever do. FEMA-contracted housing inspectors assess damage but do not determine cost estimates. FEMA does not hire or endorse specific contractors to fix homes or recommend repairs.

Con artists may pose as insurance specialists or expeditors, claiming they can convince FEMA to increase home repair damage aid or the insurer to pay a larger settlement. The scammers ask the applicant or policyholder to sign a contract giving them a percentage of the “increased” payment.

The essence of the con is to take a percentage of the damage grant or policy settlement that would be given anyway. FEMA always deals directly with each applicant and is always willing to consider an appeal by sending a new inspector to review damaged property or claimed losses.

Charity Scams

Before donating, people should investigate to be sure the organization asking for donations is registered to solicit in Maryland and ask how the money will be used.

For other questions, Maryland residents can contact the Maryland Attorney General’s Office at www.oag.state.md.us/nonprofits/index.htm  or by calling (888) 743-0023.

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About Posted by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer. In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials. Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat. Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republicanand The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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