Monday, December 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Weather

Irma victims beware: Scams are everywhere after a natural disaster

After every natural disaster comes a flood of fraud.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, insurance agencies and consumer groups warn Floridians of possible scammers looking to take advantage of vulnerable home and car owners.

A fraud task force set up after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 recorded more than 26,000 fraud complaints and reported 17,000 of those to local law enforcement, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. After Hurricane Harvey last month, the Office of the Texas Attorney General received more than 3,000 fraud-related complaints.

Here are some tips for Tampa Bay area residents to avoid becoming a victim after the storm.

Unsolicited requests

The NICB says that any offer that comes unsolicited is probably too good to be true.

Some begin with a visit from a contractor to help rebuild. Others come in the mail or in the form of a robocall. The NICB recommends that "if you didn't request it, reject it."

Before hiring any contractor, call your insurance company. Any insurance company will honor its policy, so there shouldn't be a need to rush into an agreement with a contractor who approaches you about repair work. Always get more than one quote, too. Verify the contractors you're working with are licensed in the state. Ignore robocalls that claim your insurance premiums are past due. Don't pay for services up front and never sign an "assignment of benefits" form. Always call your insurance company first.

Always verify

Before Hurricane Irma even hit Florida, scammers were out in force in St. Lucie County, local authorities reported. Scammers posing as Federal Emergency Management Agency officials told homeowners they were under contract to remove debris from their private properties.

Trial lawyers also will be out in full force looking to profit from the disaster. So will auto windshield replacement technicians. If it sounds fishy, it probably is, the NICB says. Report suspicious activity to local law enforcement. Don't give out any personal or insurance information. Buy supplies from brand names you already know and have a track record with.

Online retailer Amazon, which allows third-party vendors to sell goods in its online marketplace, suspended a dozen vendors for racking up questionable fees on high-demand flood essentials before the storm.

Donations

Don't believe everything you see on social media. Fake GoFundMe pages and pleas for donations to false charitable groups claiming to assist those in need ran rampant online after Hurricane Harvey. A fake crowdfunding page, claiming to be by Miami-born singer Jason Derulo, aimed to raise $1 million for Irma victims before the storm even hit Florida. GoFundMe shut down the page.

Donate to organizations you know and trust. Local groups based in Tampa Bay are often safer than national groups you might have never heard of.

Report it

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's office operates a price gouging hotline. Consumers can report questionable services and other complaints by calling toll-free 1-866-966-7226. Complaints about specific businesses and recovery services can also be reported to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at freshfromflorida.com.

Comments
Forecast: Morning fog leads to a warm and sunny pre-Christmas week in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Morning fog leads to a warm and sunny pre-Christmas week in Tampa Bay

Thick fog will usher in a warm and sunny pre-Christmas week.10News WTSPThe latest 7-day forecast The fog is especially thick along the Interstate 4 corridor in eastern Hillsborough County into Polk County, with visibilities to near zero in Lakeland ...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Warm, sunny Sunday in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG ó Itís another bright, sunny day in Tampa Bay. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaHigh temperatures should reach about 80 d...
Published: 12/17/17
Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

Forecast: Weekend brings sunny skies and warmer temperatures

After a cold front across Tampa Bay, temperatures are on the rise this weekend, said WTSP 10Weather meteorologist Ric Kearbey.href="http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2015/graphics/macros/css/base.css"> 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-ar...
Published: 12/16/17
Forecast: Morning clouds yield to bright, warm weekend sunshine across Tampa Bay

Forecast: Morning clouds yield to bright, warm weekend sunshine across Tampa Bay

Early clouds and possible morning sprinkles will yield to increasing sunshine later in the day, setting the stage for a pleasant and warmer weekend across Tampa Bay.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area Temperatures are starti...
Published: 12/15/17
Forecast: Building humidity a precursor to warm weekend across Tampa Bay

Forecast: Building humidity a precursor to warm weekend across Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay region will soon be seeing an end to the cool mornings and below-average temperatures that have prevailed for much of the week.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area Temperatures early Thursday morning are startin...
Published: 12/14/17
Forecast: Warmer temperatures will follow another sunny, crisp day across Tampa Bay

Forecast: Warmer temperatures will follow another sunny, crisp day across Tampa Bay

Another dose of chilly temperatures is in store for the Tampa Bay region before a warming trend takes temperatures back into the 70s through next week.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area Dry air and winds from the north are ...
Published: 12/13/17
Forecast: Warm breezes across Tampa Bay ahead of fluctuating conditions

Forecast: Warm breezes across Tampa Bay ahead of fluctuating conditions

Chilly, windy, colder, sunny, warmer, rainy. 10News WTSP Feels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area This week’s inconsistent weather conditions will at least keep things interesting across the Tampa Bay area, even if it makes it d...
Published: 12/12/17
To test for climate disasters, like hurricanes: build stuff, then blow it apart

To test for climate disasters, like hurricanes: build stuff, then blow it apart

WEST GLOCESTER, R.I. ó In the backwoods of Rhode Island, a team of researchers spends whole days trying to destroy things: setting boxes on fire, shattering chunks of ice, hurling debris through the air at hurricane speed.They work for an insurance c...
Published: 12/12/17
Forecast: Freeze warning for some Tampa Bay residents, but warmer weather coming

Forecast: Freeze warning for some Tampa Bay residents, but warmer weather coming

Portions of the Tampa Bay area under a freeze warning as this weekendís cold blast extends into the start of the workweek.10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay area That wintry feel, however, is coming into an end as conditions beg...
Published: 12/11/17
Itís so cold outside that it snowed in Florida

Itís so cold outside that it snowed in Florida

Usually the words "snow" and "Florida" donít go together.But a cold front over the weekend has proved that rule wrong for shivering Floridians, bringing in a dusting of snow across the western Panhandle late Saturday night into Sunday morning.As temp...
Published: 12/10/17