As flood victims across the United States turn their energy and resources to cleaning up, repairing and replacing their damaged property, people with disrupted lives are an easy mark for con artists, according to The Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A common scam occurs when a person poses as an inspector or loss verifier of flood-damaged property. Some of these “inspectors” charge a fee for what they do. Some may have official-looking identification that they use to get inside residents’ homes.

If someone comes to your door and says he or she is with a government agency or utility, insist on seeing identification. If you have any doubts, check with the agency they claim to represent.

Beware as well of fraudulent home repair salesmen or contractors. Before replacing an appliance, check to see whether it is usable. Often all that is needed is to clean the item thoroughly.

Check with the manufacturer for any special recommendations. A water heater, for example, is a sealed unit. If the sealed tank itself has not broken, even if it has been submerged, it may still work. Have the valves checked and, if necessary, cleaned.

If a gas-fired unit got wet, have it inspected by a licensed technician and a local government agent, if required, prior to the gas being turned back on. Once the unit has been certified as serviceable by the proper authorities, the gas company will restore service.

Electric water heaters may only need to have the element and/or thermostat replaced.

If someone takes your money, it may be impossible to get it back. If you suspect fraud, call the police, sheriff, or Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-451-1525.

On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident.


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