News

Actions

Officials warn flooding victims of possible scammers

Waverly flood damage august 2021
Posted at 9:14 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 22:18:56-04

WAVERLY, Tenn. (WTVF) — The devastation caused by flash flooding in Humphreys County stretches up to 10 miles, according to the sheriff.

It was a flooding event that took destroyed homes, damaged property and took more than 20 lives. Residents will likely be cleaning up for several weeks.

"Our people need help. We're going to be overwhelmed for the next 30 days at least; overwhelmed," said Humphreys County Sheriff Chris Davis.

And unfortunately, with tragedies like this come scammers looking to prey on the vulnerable. Sheriff Davis and Waverly Police Chief Grant Gillespie warned of "shady" contractors looking to make quick money as people try to recover from the storms.

"I just want to really caution folks not to be taken advantage of," said Chief Gillespie. "We just don't want that to happen and we're watching for you if you come into town."

They said there hasn't been any looting or similar criminal activity reported in the area since the flood but there have been reports of questionable services being offered.

The chief said some are asking for money up front, without a contract, which is a red flag. He urged people to research any business or service before paying someone.

Businesses can be checked through the Better Business Bureau here.

Avoiding Severe Weather Contractor Scams:

While many people seek to help after severe weather — unfortunately, there is also an increased risk for scams and fraud. Watch out for:

  • Upfront fees to help you claim services, benefits or get loans. No federal or state government agency charges application fees for services or benefits
  • Con artists posing as government employees, insurance adjusters, law enforcement officials or bank employees. Confirm credentials by calling the agencies if necessary.
  • Organizations with names similar to government agencies or charities.
  • Limited time offers. Don’t be pressured to make a decision on the spot or to sign anything without having enough time to review it.
  • Fake rental listings. If the offer sounds too good to be true or the property owner can’t show you the property beforehand, it’s a bad sign.

Tips For Hiring Contractors:

  • Remember that a contractor’s license is required before bidding or price negotiations when the total cost of the project is $25,000 or more.
  • For work that costs less than $25,000, check with your local government’s building codes office to confirm whether a contractor needs a state license or local license to perform home improvement, electrical, plumbing or HVAC work, as well as their permit requirements for inspections.
  • Before selecting a professional, ensure they are properly licensed for the project through our our Public Search feature.
  • Get several bids and check references before committing to a contractor.
  • Be wary of contractors selling repairs door-to-door, especially when they ask to receive payment upfront or offer deep discounts.
  • Generally, do not pay more than 1/3 of the cost upfront and make sure you have the terms of payment in writing.
  • If you are dealing with a company or person who promises to remove debris from your property, ask them to list the services they will provide in writing.
  • Ensure that your contract provides for you to make an inspection and approve the work before making the final payment.
  • Tennessee's felony theft law covers consumers whenever a contractor takes money and fails to perform work within 90 days. Pursuant to T.C.A. 39-14-105, consumers may contact local law enforcement and file charges to prosecute the contractor for theft. More information about the law can be found here.
  • Consumers can check the complaint and disciplinary history of a contractor by contacting the Board for Licensing Contractors by phone at (800) 544-7693 or (615) 741-8307 or emailing our team at contractors.home-improvement@tn.gov. To file a complaint, consumers should visit our website at tn.gov/commerce.