Preventing Scams and Deceptive Practices During Post-Disaster Recovery | thehumblepennys

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Preventing Scams and Deceptive Practices During Post-Disaster Recovery

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Disasters often highlight both the compassion and, unfortunately, the greed in people. I witnessed this duality when Hurricane Harvey struck my hometown in 2017.

Harvey devastated around 200 businesses, with almost a fifth of local homes suffering flood damage, some submerged to their rooftops. Recovery was a prolonged process, with some businesses failing to rebound and many houses left deserted. My home narrowly escaped the floods; a few more hours would have seen our fortunes change.

Post-disaster, many areas became a magnet for opportunists looking to benefit. In this piece, I’ll share insights to safeguard you from falling victim to such misdeeds should disaster strike.

The Positive Side: Rallying Support
Though this article focuses on post-catastrophe exploitations, it’s crucial to recognize our community’s immense unity and assistance. Embracing Mr. Roger’s wisdom, searching for the helpers always reveals them.

Almost immediately, churches became beacons of hope. Calls for essentials like meals, clean water, bedding, and manpower reverberated, with nearly every church facilitating relief teams. These teams selflessly aided devastated homeowners, stripping homes down to their basic foundations. The community’s resilience and collaboration truly embodied the “Texas Strong” spirit.

If you are spared from a disaster but your neighbors aren’t, here are guidelines to offer support.

Post-Disaster Exploitations: A Deep Dive
The aftermath was stark – homes gutted with debris lining the streets for months. This wreckage, while heartbreaking, also became a haven for pests and parasites.

Unfortunately, these scenes drew individuals preying on the grief-stricken. Awareness and vigilance are your best defenses.

Looters
Post-disaster chaos birthed opportunities for looters who ransacked temporarily vacant homes. The sentiment “Looters will be shot” became all too relatable.

Homeowners, trying to salvage what was left, often arranged their belongings outside, only to find them stolen. Day and night, thieves scoured these neighborhoods, on the prowl for any valuable remnants.

Identity Theft
Essential papers had to be discarded, offering a goldmine to identity thieves. They forged identities, using discarded documents to their advantage. With mail deliveries resuming, mail theft became rampant, targeting displaced homeowners.

To safeguard your mail, consider using USPS’s mail hold service or its temporary address change service. Also, it’s prudent to have a backup of crucial documents.

Shady Contractors
The town inevitably drew contractors, not all with noble intentions. Some disappeared after collecting hefty deposits; others delivered subpar work. Beware of those who inflate prices after learning about your insurance payouts. Always vet contractors, solicit multiple bids, and remember, the lowest bid isn’t necessarily the best.

Online Exploits
On social platforms, tales of deceit abounded, with people exploiting others’ miseries. The community had to be on guard against fake victims and scams, even questioning genuine pleas for help.

Deceit Beyond Social Media
Some fraudsters impersonated officials over phone calls or emails, using clever tactics to deceive. It’s imperative to verify all requests for personal information or money.

Other Notable Scams

  • Reselling flood-damaged goods without disclosure.
  • Increased theft due to distracted homeowners.
  • Fraudsters selling donated items.
  • Repair scams and exaggerated repair costs.
  • Misrepresenting damages to secure donations.
  • Scams under the guise of reputable organizations.

Reporting Malfeasance
Report any suspicious activities to local law enforcement.

Concluding Thoughts
For those affected, life becomes demarcated into ‘pre-flood’ and ‘post-flood.’ It’s heartbreaking that they had to endure further victimization by their fellow citizens.

Such stories aren’t exclusive to my town. Where suffering exists, exploiters are not far behind. Familiarize yourself with these tactics, share the knowledge, and remain vigilant.

By staying informed, we can outsmart these opportunists.

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