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Officials warn against scammers after Hurricane Irma


Date: September 14, 2017
Source: Orlando Sentinel
Author:  David Harris


Local, state and federal officials are telling residents to be wary of scammers in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

A number of hot lines and task forces have been set up to combat fraud.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said anyone doing contract work should be licensed at MyFloridaLicense.com, the Department of Professional Business Regulation’s website.

People should be leery of contractors who have out-of-state phone numbers or license plates.

Judd also pointed out that municipal crews will be going to homes within the next few weeks and will remove debris for free, so there’s no point in paying someone to do it.

“In fact, in the past, we have seen people offer to haul away your debris for a fee, and then they turn around and dump it on another right-of-way to be picked up for free,” Judd said.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in a news conference Thursday that it had a “zero-tolerance” policy for hurricane-related fraud.

W. Stephen Muldrow, acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, which includes Orlando, said he created a task force to hunt down fraudsters.

The task force will also look for fraudulent charitable organizations.

“Our Office will continue to protect the rights of our honest citizens affected by this disaster and ensure that they receive the necessary public and charitable assistance they deserve,” Muldrow said in a statement.

A National Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 is available for residents to report scammers.

Residents can also contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 866-966-7226 to see whether there are complaints against a company or contractor.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis urged Floridians to file insurance claims as quickly as possible as most companies have a deadline.

People filing claims can call the state’s Insurance Consumer Helpline at 877-693-5236.