RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Look out for shameless hit and run scammers, as they're called, following this hurricane. Crooks are already swarming for innocent victims. 12 On Your Side has a special 'fight back' report, so you don't get taken by thieves running hurricane cleanup scams.
The majority of contractors are legitimate, but some are fraudulently making money doing hurricane recovery work. Whether it's going door-to-door getting repair work they don't know how to do, or taking people's money for jobs, they don't plan to complete.
It only takes a few hours for scammers to find hurricane damaged areas and saturate neighborhoods with signs 'for hire'.
"I would be leery even of that especially if they're hand printed. Someone hasn't gone through the trouble to have a few flyers printed. Not that that denotes legitimacy necessarily," said Elaine Lidholm with the Virginia Consumer Affairs Division.
It should cause you to check out the business before parting from your money. If its debris removal get the company to list services it will perform in writing.
Get a business card, check references, check them out with the Better Business Bureau and make a partial payment by check says the state Division of Consumer Affairs.
"I know they're all going, 'I don't have time for that.' Do you have time to do it twice when the first time they don't finish the work or they take your money and just disappear?," Lidholm said.
12 On Your Side exposed a few contractors after persistent investigation including Clayton Duty. He was recently arrested for obtaining money under false pretenses, and also former tombstone dealer Ron Hess. He goes on trial Wednesday on 52 felony indictments.
Whether it's an everyday business transaction or emergency cleanup after hurricane Irene or someone who just shows up at your door: check out the business first. That should be standard practice. Giving your money to a guy you don't know with a truck and a chain saw is a gamble.
"We even heard of some yesterday saying 'oh, your insurance isn't going to cover that, so you just as well have me do it,'" Lidholm said. "There probably are people in your neighborhood who have used people successfully and check with them."