Sheriff’s office warns of scams after Florence

Published 6:32 pm Monday, September 24, 2018

As cleanup continues in the wake of Hurricane Florence, there are countless examples throughout Beaufort County of neighbors helping neighbors clean up yards and repair buildings damaged by the storm. Likewise, legitimate contractors, lawn services, handymen and cleaning services are hard at work helping homeowners pick up the pieces and move on.

Unfortunately, however, areas impacted by natural disasters can also attract unwanted visitors — con artists eager to make a quick dollar off of someone else’s misfortune.

To prevent scammers from taking advantage of local residents, the Beaufort County Sheriff’s office is encouraging the public to exercise caution in their business transactions when it comes to post-storm cleanup.

“This is something that comes up after most storms,” BCSO Chief Deputy Charlie Rose said. “There will be people that are doing honest work and doing things the right way, but it seems like in the aftermath of each storm, we’ll have people going around trying to scam money off of people. “

Beaufort County Crime Stoppers offers the following tips to prevent the public from falling victim to post-hurricane scams:

  • Be suspicious of contractors who pressure you into making rushed temporary repairs, especially if the repairs are not an emergency.
  • Ask for references. An ethical contractor should be eager to provide them.
  • Dismiss any contractor who claims to be backed by FEMA, as they do not endorse contractors.
  • Look for the business name and phone number on the vehicle of anyone who approaches you about work.
  • Ask to see the contractor’s driver’s license. Record their license number and the license plate number of their vehicle
  • Never let a contractor tell you not to contact your insurance company.
  • Never pay the entire contract amount before any work is done.

“It’s just like any other business transaction,” Rose said. “You’re going to want to have references, have a good understanding of what you need done and you need to be comfortable with the people that are going to be doing the work. If someone needs to slow down and get references, or if they feel that something is not right, they need to act upon that.”

In many cases, bogus contractors will approach homeowners in person. According to Rose, however, phone scams are also a possibility during storm recovery. Residents with concerns regarding scams can call the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office at 252-946-7111.