Preventing Contractor Fraud

20 Sep

Contractor fraud is prevalent after natural disasters. This information from the St. Bernard Project will enable agencies to help their clients to prevent fraud.

St. Bernard Project has rebuilt 457 homes for families in the Greater New Orleans Area, 60% of whom are victim of contractor fraud. SBP seeks to reduce contractor fraud by informing families in disaster-struck communities.

Attention Homeowners:

If your house was damaged by a natural disaster, and you seek a reputable contractor to help with the repair and restoration of your home, please review this document.

Homeowners must do their due diligence before rebuilding to avoid contractor fraud.

What is contractor fraud?

Contractor fraud is a form of theft performed by contractors who overcharge, do not provide promised services, or use faulty materials when working on homes. It is prevalent in wake of disasters, when contractors take advantage of unsuspecting, confused and overwhelmed families. Contractor jargon, details of complex building systems and unpredictable scope of work make choosing the right contractor a challenge.

Why is there contractor fraud in my community?

Inevitably, the demand for qualified contractors after a large-scale disaster exceeds the supply. Many legitimate and licensed home repair companies can be booked solid for months. Frustrated and anxious homeowners eager to get their property back in shape may neglect to take the necessary precautions when hiring contractors. Fraudulent contractors know this, and flock to disaster-struck communities to make a quick buck.

How do I avoid contractor fraud?

SBP has researched and identified specific tips to safeguard families from fly-by-night contractors who make homeowners’ road to recovery even more difficult.

1. Only hire licensed and insured contractors. Verify the track record of any roofer, builder or contractor you’re thinking of hiring. Ask for a list of recent customers and call them. To ensure a contractor is licensed in the state of Louisiana search for them here.

2. Get multiple estimates. Fraudulent contractors, especially when they approach seniors, will offer a “free” estimate to assess “problems” with your roof, siding, driveway, etc. The scammer will always find something wrong.

Avoid fraudulent contractors by obtaining multiple estimates for any “damage” to your home. Consult friends, family or neighbors to learn the names of contractors they’ve used in the past – ones they trust.

3. Estimates and contractors must be on paper. The typical scammer will “assess” problems at your home, and offer a verbal “quote” on how much these problems will cost to fix. Verbal quotes are not legally binding. If the contractor later charges twice his estimate – or damages your property during the “repair” process – it’s doubtful you could successfully sue the fraudulent contractor.

Legitimate contractors are certified, insured and/or bonded by the state and/or town in which you live. They will also offer documented estimates for you to inspect before work commences. Ask for explanations for price variations.

Before signing the document, ask a knowledgeable friend, relative or attorney to review a home repair contract before you sign. If you get a loan to pay for the work, be cautious about using your home as security (if you don’t repay the loan as agreed, you could lose your home). Consider asking an attorney to review the loan documents, as well.

Make sure you and the contractor sign this document before any work is started, and that you keep a copy of the signed document in a safe place.

4. Obtain referrals. Get recommendations from friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, insurance agents or claims adjusters. Also check with the local Better Business Bureau and Home Builders Association to see if complaints have been lodged against any contractor you’re considering.

5. Never pay with cash, never pay upfront. Document all payments, via check or credit card, so there is a paper trail. Clients who pay with cash are likely to never see the contractor again.

Reputable contractors ask for down payments or deposits (1/3 of the total price is standard procedure), almost never a full payment upfront. In fact, most legitimate contractors bill at predetermined progress points in the project and when the work is complete to the client’s satisfaction.

6. Avoid the Door-to-Door Salesmen. The door-to-door salesmen who claims they just happened to be in the neighborhood because they were doing work for someone nearby is a common fraudulent activity. Many of these “door-to-door salesmen” claim to have materials left over from the last job, which, if true, is likely stolen materials from another client.

Seek contractors through referrals. Honest contractors earn most of their business through referrals from satisfied customers, and they don’t need to travel door-todoor to find business.

7. Avoid Referral Schemes. Some scammers offer substantial “discounts” if promised referrals to future customers, or let them use the client’s home as a “model” or “demonstration” project.

Focus on moving yourself and your family home safely first. Only agree to a referral program once the work is completed to your satisfaction.

What if I am a victim of contractor fraud?

If you suspect a repair rip-off, call the consumer division of your state Attorney General (800/351-4889). If you suspect fraud, waste, or abuse involving Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance programs, report it to FEMA’s Inspector General’s Office (800/323-8603).

What can St. Bernard Project do for me?

Contact St. Bernard Project to learn more about our services. SBP is considering options and communicating with local stakeholders to insure a safe and prompt recovery.

Call 504/277-6831 to talk with a member of the SBP team today.

Client Services: Chad Carson

Government and community relations: Reese May

Media: Adrian Cohn

About St. Bernard Project

St. Bernard Project is an innovative, award-winning nonprofit organization that ensures that disaster impacted communities recover in a prompt, efficient and predictable way.

SBP has rebuilt homes for 457 families in the Greater New Orleans area with over 48,000 volunteers since 2006. To learn more about SBP, please visit http://stbernardproject.org.

New Red Cross Hurricane App–Check It Out!!!!

7 Aug

New Hurricane App Brings American Red Cross

Safety Information to Smart Phones

The American Red Cross launched its official Hurricane App, putting lifesaving information right in the hands of people who live in or who visit hurricane prone areas.

This free app is the second in a series to be created by the American Red Cross, the nation’s leader in emergency preparedness, for use on both iPhone and Android platforms. It gives instant access to local and real time information on what to do before, during and after hurricanes. Building on the Red Cross’ leadership in the social media space, the app also includes a number of features that allow people to monitor personalized weather alerts in locations where family and friends reside and share information with others in their social networks who might also need it.

Features of the app include:

· One touch “I’m safe” messaging that allows users to broadcast reassurance to family and friends via social media outlets that they are out of harm’s way;

· Location-based NOAA weather alerts for the United States and its territories users can share on social networks;

· Remote monitoring of personalized weather alerts where family and friends reside

· Locations of open Red Cross shelters;

· Simple steps and checklists people can use to create a family emergency plan;

· Preloaded content that gives users instant access to critical action steps, even without mobile connectivity;

· Toolkit with flashlight, strobe light and audible alarm; and

· Badges users can earn through interactive quizzes and share on social networks.

The app enables people across the country to receive alerts for locations in areas where they like to vacation or where loved ones live, giving peace of mind to travelers, people who winter in warmer climates, and those with elderly relatives or college students in coastal areas.

To download this as well as other Red Cross Safety Apps, Go to:

Red Cross First Aid App

Thanks.

Bill Salmeron

Emergency Services Director

South Louisiana Region

Serving Coastal Louisiana

American Red Cross

2640 Canal Street

New Orleans, Louisiana 70119

(504) 620-3145 (Office)

(504) 915-8229 (Cell)

Please note my new email address: William.salmeron

Visit our Website at www.redcross.org

Visit our Online Disaster Newsroom at http://newsroom.redcross.org

NEW Red Cross Mobile First Aid App for iPhone/Android–Check It Out

16 Jun

FREE Red Cross Mobile First Aid Application for iPhone/Android

The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand

Available for iPhone and Android devices, this FREE official American Red Cross First Aid app gives you instant access to the information you need to know to handle the most common first aid emergencies. With videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice, it’s never been easier to know first aid.

Features:

  • Simple step-by-step instructions guide you through everyday first aid scenarios.
  • Fully integrated with 911 so you can call EMS from the app at any time.
  • Videos and animations make learning first aid fun and easy.
  • Safety tips for everything, from severe winter weather to hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes help you prepare for emergencies.
  • Preloaded content means you have instant access to all safety information at anytime, even without reception or an Internet connection.
  • Interactive quizzes allow you to earn badges that you can share with your friends and show off your lifesaving knowledge.

Bill Salmeron

Emergency Services Director

American Red Cross

2640 Canal Street

New Orleans, Louisiana 70119

(504) 620-3145 (Office)

(504) 915-8229 (Cell)

Please note my new email address: William.salmeron

Visit our Website at www.redcross.org

Visit our Online Disaster Newsroom at http://newsroom.redcross.org

Get Your Agency/Business Ready For Disaster

24 May

The American Red Cross Ready RatingTM Program is a free, web-based program designed to help businesses, schools and organizations prepare for disasters and emergencies.

This online program includes the following great features:

  • An easy interactive web-based platform.
  • An Emergency Response Plan Tool, which enables members to build a customized plan to help their employees know their roles in the first 24-72 hours of an emergency.
  • A Next Steps report that recommends specific actions members should take and the level of effort required to execute them;
  • A Resource Center that includes preparedness tools including activities and exercises, so businesses, employees and students can better develop and practice preparedness plans.
  • A Ready Rating Store with emergency supplies at the click of a button.

Go to www.readyrating.org and check it out.

If you have any questions, please contact Bruce Cuber at 504-620-3133, or bruce.cuber@redcross.org

Thanks.

Community Agency/Faith Based Hurricane Exercise–June 2012–Sign Up Today!!!

24 May

The American Red Cross will be conducting a Community Agency Hurricane Exercise on June 21, 2012 from 8am to noon at their office at 2640 Canal St., New Orleans La 70119.

This session is for regional community and faith based organizations that have plans to or a desire to respond before, during, or after a hurricane.  It will be a mixture of hurricane response and COOP education combined with a tabletop hurricane exercise to facilitate discussion.

For more information and/or to register, please contact Maureen Gallagher at 504-620-3132 or Maureen.Gallagher@redcross.org

Thanks.

Bill Salmeron

…NOAA Predicts a near-Normal Atlantic Hurricane Season…

24 May

…NOAA Predicts a near-Normal Atlantic Hurricane Season…

Key Points:

• Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season (June 1-Nov 30, 2012).

• There is a 70% chance of 9 to 15 named storms.

• Of those storms, 4 to 8 will strengthen to hurricane force.

• Of those hurricanes, 1 to 3 will become major hurricanes, ranking category 3, 4 or 5.

• Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

• “NOAA’s outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D.

• Sea surface temperatures will be near average across much of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, which is known as the Main Development Region.

• Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they persist, are: o 1. strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation in the Main Development Region, and o 2. cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.

• The seasonal outlook does not predict how many storms will hit land.

• May 27- June 2, is national Hurricane Preparedness Week.

Links To read the full press release for the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Outlook, visit: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20120524_atlantic_hurricane_season.html

Thanks.

Bill Salmeron

New GNODRP Officers and Committees

26 Jul

The GNODRP Board met this week and elected its officers as follows:

President: Jessica Vermilyea

Vice President: Bill Salmeron

Secretary: Jonathan Padgett

Treasurer: Arthur Johnson

Also, below are the standing committees that were formed with chairs:

Operations: Jessica Vermilyea

Preparedness and Response: Bill Salmeron

Recovery: Jonathan Padgett

Finance: Arthur Johnson

If you are interested in serving on any of the committees, please email us with your interest at info

The next General Membership Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 24th from 10-12 at the GNODRP office.

Thank you for your continued support and participation in GNODRP.

Thanks,

Bill Salmeron