State warns of storm scams

By Greg Collier

Recently, the Wichita-area of Kansas experienced severe weather, which resulted in at least one tornado that tore through the town of Andover. The EF-3 tornado was only on the ground for 21 minutes, more than 1,000 buildings were destroyed in the 13 miles the tornado traveled. As with any natural disaster, scammers will start popping out of the woodwork looking to take advantage of storm victims. In an attempt to get ahead of the scammers, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office issued a warning to residents of the Sunflower State.

Even though the warnings issued are relevant to Kansas residents right now, every state has its fair share of natural disasters. Whether it’s flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, earthquakes, or what have you, scammers will descend on that area like a plague. So what’s pertinent to Kansas today could be pertinent to your area tomorrow.

The most common scam after disasters like this are from shady contractors. These phony contractors travel from storm to storm, looking for victims. They’ll claim to be licensed, but they may not be licensed in your state. You should only deal with contractors that are licensed in your state. Another good way to avoid this scam is to get estimates from a few contractors. Also, you should never pay in advance as that could be an indication of a scam.

Another disaster-related scam is when scammers offer to assist you in qualifying for FEMA relief assistance. FEMA does not charge any kind of application fee. So if someone claiming to be from FEMA asks you for money, they’re more than likely a fraud.

This can go for scammers posing as your insurance company as well. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from your insurance company, don’t give them any personal information. Instead, you should hang up and either call your local agent or the customer service phone number listed on your policy.

For those of you living outside of disaster areas, you still have to be wary of scams as well. While you may have a charitable streak, be careful of donating to any random charity claiming to be for disaster relief. Real charities will never ask you to donate through gift cards, money orders, or wire transfers. Scammers will also try to pressure you into making a donation as quickly as possible.