Natural disasters can have a big impact on communities, leaving behind not just physical damage but also financial vulnerabilities. However, it's important to be cautious to avoid falling victim to scams as scammers often prey on those who are already struggling. To help you navigate this challenging period and protect yourself from scams, check out these simple yet effective tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

  1. Take Your Time: Don't rush into decisions. Research and think carefully before agreeing to sign a contract.
  2. Watch Out for Upfront Payment Requests: Be cautious if someone asks for money before starting work other than negotiating a reasonable down payment.
  3. Check for Licenses: Make sure contractors have the right licenses for their work. Don't trust those who say they don't need to be licensed.
  4. Stick with local contractors: Choosing local contractors after a disaster is smart. They know the rules, are easy to reach, and help your community recover faster.
  5. Use Standard Payments: Use normal payment methods like cash, credit cards or checks. Don't fall for unusual payment methods like wire transfers or gift cards that are difficult to get back once they’ve been collected. Cashier’s checks are guaranteed funds if a contractor says they don’t accept checks.
  6. Consider your choices: Reach out to multiple contractors for estimates. Analyze the specifics of the project, including materials, timeline, and cost. Utilize online reviews to gather insights from others; platforms like BBB and the Chamber of Commerce can be particularly helpful resources in this regard.
  7. Permits and Regulations: Make sure your contractors have the right permits for their work. Since permit fees are currently waived in several communities, there’s no reason for them not to get the necessary permits. This step helps guarantee that the work is done correctly and meets local regulations.
  8. Get Invoices and Receipts: Keep good records and never make final payment until the work is done and you’ve signed off on it.
  9. Report Suspicious Activity: If something seems strange, report it to the right people. This helps protect everyone.

For a complete overview of how to recognize and avoid scams after natural disasters, as well as other related guidance, see How to Avoid Scams After Weather Emergencies and Natural Disasters (, 2024).