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‘These people know who to prey on’: Hardee Sheriff warns of scammers after Ian

By: Chad Mills
Posted at 9:03 AM, Oct 10, 2022 
 and last updated 9:03 AM, Oct 10, 2022

WAUCHULA, Fla. — In Hardee County, after historic flooding along the Peace River, recovery efforts continue.

As they do, Sheriff Vent Crawford is warning the community about a potential threat that they might face in the coming days and weeks: scammers.

According to a recent Facebook post by the Hardee County Sheriff’s Office, there are reports that scammers — capitalizing on Hurricane Ian — are already in the area.

Hardee County officials aren’t the only ones warning about scammers. Venice Police said an Orlando man was arrested for unlicensed contracting on Sunday after he entered into a contract with an elderly victim to replace the roof of their mobile home for $47,000. 

The sheriff’s office said there are several red flags residents can look out for and habits they can practice to protect themselves from potential scams:

  • An adjuster sent by your insurance company should have identification connected to your company. Subcontractors will often be used, but they should still be able to produce some kind of proof of who they are.
  • Never give an adjuster money unless you have called and verified with your insurance company those arrangements.
  • Beware of the pushy people. Anyone demanding a signed contract today or refusing to leave without a commitment should raise a red flag.
  • Scammers tend to prey on older folks. If you have a parent or grandparent, it would be best to help them through the process of filing a claim. Sometimes the warning signs aren’t as apparent to them.
  • Never hesitate to ask suspicious people to leave and make contact with your insurance company. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

“If they come to your house, report it. Try to get a description of the vehicle. We’re out there looking for these scammers also — especially in the low-lying areas that have been heavily affected by the river rise,” Sheriff Crawford said.

Additionally, Crawford believes some scammers may use charity scams to take advantage of the community’s generosity and willingness to help other storm victims after Hurricane Ian.

“I know that we need to give and we need to do we need to do what we need to do for those in need — we were lucky in our area — but these door-to-door people who are saying they’re from the American Red Cross or United Way or whatever, chances are that is not going to be the fact, so we definitely need to be cautious on those types of scams,” he said.

According to the Manatee County’s Facebook page, storm victims should also use caution during interactions with purported representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

  • Always ask to see I.D. FEMA personnel will always have an official identification badge
  • Do not offer any personal information unless you are speaking with a verified FEMA representative
  • Stay tuned to trusted local media for updates from your local officials on disaster fraud and scams
  • Check with local law enforcement to ensure your identity is protected

Click here for resources to report potential fraud.

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