CAPE CORAL, Fl. — The Better Business Bureau is putting Floridians on high alert for potential scammers when it comes to home repairs.
Tropical Storm Elsa cruised through Southwest Florida, leaving various floods in its wake. It’s the last thing on most mind’s of those dealing with the aftermath of a storm. Getting scammed.
“Scammers are always going to see this as an opportunity to take advantage of consumers when they may be most vulnerable,” says Bryan Oglesby, Director of Public Relations and Outreach for the Better Business Bureau Serving West Florida. “They’re really going to play on those emotions, they’re going to take large, upfront cash payments, they’ll leave to get supplies and they won’t return to finish the job.”
Oglesby says now is high tide for scam risk after Tropical Storm Elsa’s visit to Southwest Florida.
“You could have people knocking on your doors, you could even receive a text message or phone call claiming to be from a government agency like FEMA," said Oglesby. "Trying to either gather personal information from you or maybe trying to claim an unlicensed contractor we call ‘Storm Chasers,’ claiming they can do the repairs, do it now, let’s get this resolved for you.’”
Florida is no stranger when it comes to devastating weather, as is evident here on this residential street. Tropical Storm Elsa left many streets like this one flooded which will cause some homeowners to seek clean up.
“This was not a major hit to Southwest Florida, we got lucky this time," said Gary Aubuchon, President of Aubuchon Homes. "But the point is it’s important to be vigilant before the storm, right, in preparing and making sure you’re doing the things that are necessary. It’s also equally important to be vigilant following the storm if your property has been damaged.”
According to Aubuchon, roofs are the most susceptible area of the home to potential scams. The reasoning is two-fold: it’s the most likely to be damaged and it’s one of the most critical parts to a home.
“It’s very difficult to live in a house with a leaking roof, particularly, if the roof had been severely damaged," says Aubuchon. "People are very anxious to get a repair perfected as soon as possible and might not want to take the steps necessary to ensure that the person they’re doing business with is, in fact, a legitimate contractor in the state of Florida.”
In fact, every contractor is required to have a license with the license number recorded in Florida with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Anyone can search a license number through the department's licensing portal.
“You can go to the DBPR website, that’s the official state of Florida website, and check on a contractor simply by entering their license number in," Aubuchon said. "That will tell you if that’s a real number or a bogus number.”
Elsa may not have caused any significant damage for some, but only time will tell if more storms are on the way. You can avoid being scammed by tracking scams online with the BBB Scam Tracker. You can find more helpful tips online right here.