Tornado victims learn to protect themselves from scammers - CBS46 News

Tornado victims learn to protect themselves from scammers

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Losing your home in a natural disaster can be one of the most stressful situations anyone could deal with, and unfortunately scammers use it as an opportunity to take your money and run.

It is not if an illegitimate contractor will knock on your door, but when, Phae Howard said. Howard is the executive director at the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud.

The nonprofit's main goal is to educate disaster victims on how to safeguard their homes from scammers.

"These guys are really good at what they do," Howard said. "You can no longer just go to the Better Business Bureau or just get a reference from the deacon at your church. You really need to investigate these people you are allowing into your home."

Howard said it is estimated $70 billion a year is lost nationally because of bad contractors.

"It is hard, hard making decisions," John Beasley said. "The only thing I am comfortable with now is going to work, and that's bad, you know. But it's the only thing right now that is still the same in my life because everything else has been turned upside down."

Beasley attended the information forum to help not only himself but his neighbors who are in similar situations.

"It has been sort of chaotic to get insurance companies to make decisions about what we are going to do," Beasley said. "So, information I can pass onto others or take for myself, I am blessed to do it."

There are some simple steps a homeowner can take to keep the scammers away.

"The first thing they need to do is make sure the contractor has a contractor's license," Howard said. "He should have a pocket card and don't just go by that card, call the licensing bureau here in the state of Georgia and verify that contractor holds that license. And don't give money up front period."

Before any contract is signed or money exchanges hands, Howard said it is a good idea to have a trusted advisor look over it, or a lawyer.

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