Disaster Victim Tips
When a disaster strikes our State, thousands of residents may suffer property damage. After the disaster comes the clean up, and during this period, scammers may attempt to take advantage of severe weather victims.
Listen to Attorney General Rutlege's short podcast on storm scams.
Before the storm or flood
- Create an emergency plan to share with friends, family and neighbors. If you have pets, they should be included in your emergency plan.
- Prepare an emergency supply kit with water, medications and other necessities.
- Heed severe weather warnings. Once a warning is issued, retreat to a safe place.
- Secure personal belongings, including an updated record of the descriptions and serial numbers of electronics and other valuables in case they need to be tracked down, replaced or reported to the insurance company after a disaster strikes.
- Review insurance policies and consult with a qualified agent or broker to assess insurance coverages.
After the storm or flood
- Avoid any Additional Risks: Check for warping, loosened or cracked foundation elements, cracks and holes. Turn off all water and electrical sources to the home. Beware of rodents, snakes and other reptiles.
- Document the Damage: Take photos or video of the damage before removing the water or any flood-damaged items for any future insurance claims.
- Protect Your Health: Standing water and affected areas of your home may be contaminated with sewage or household chemicals. Wear protective gear while cleaning up. Throw out any food that came in contact with flood waters.
- Mitigate Mold Damage: Remove carpeting and bedding. Keep affected areas as dry as possible and use a strong cleaner such as bleach.
- Removal and Repair: Beware of door-to-door solicitors or anyone asking for payment for the entire job upfront. Verify that the contractor is licensed and insist upon a written contract.
- Be an informed giver. Ask questions before you give to a charity to ensure that your donation will be used for the purposes you intend.
- Ask for written information. A legitimate charity will send you information before you donate.
- Contact the charity directly to avoid scammers who solicit by telephone, email or social media.
- Watch out for similar sounding names. Scam artists often try to take advantage of names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate charities.
- Do not send cash. For your security and tax records, make your donation by check or credit card.
- Beware of crowdfunding campaign and verify that the organizer of the fundraiser is legitimately connected to those seeking assistance.
- Beware of door-to-door solicitors selling home-repair work. To find someone reputable, ask friends or family who have recently used a home-repair contractor or professional. Consider contacting the Arkansas Contractor’s Licensing Board to verify that the contractor is licensed and has not had any complaints filed against it.
- Avoid any home-repair solicitor who asks for an upfront payment or who will not provide you with a written contract.
- Get at least three written estimates. A reputable contractor or professional will never try to pressure you to obtain your business.
- Obtain and check at least three references from your contractor or professional.
- Check with the Attorney General’s office or the Better Business Bureau to find out if the company has a complaint history.
- Obtain a written and detailed contract that includes the grade, quality, name brand and quantity of any materials to be used. The name and address of the contractor must be on the contract.
- Avoid paying for the entire job up front. One-third paid in advance, one-third paid halfway through the job and one-third paid upon completion is a better plan, helping assure that your project will be completed. Never make the final payment until you have had an opportunity to inspect the work.
- Remember that all contracts resulting from a home-solicitation sale generally must include a buyer’s right to cancel within three business days after the contract is signed.
- Make sure all warranties and guarantees are in writing.
Home improvement scams
- Beware of "home improvement" loan scams, in which the scammer offers to arrange financing or offers to fill out a disaster loan application for a fee.
- Beware of anyone who offers to inflate the amount of your disaster damage assessment.
- Be suspicious of anyone who solicits your personal information, such as Social Security and bank account numbers.
- Never sign any document without fully reading and understanding it. If you do not understand something, ask for an explanation.
- Shop for the best financing if you are financing the cost of the repairs.
Flood insurance scams
As the most common natural disaster, flooding can strike at any time, and flood insurance is available to defray the costs of repair and property loss. Flood insurance, however, requires advance preparation and despite what scam artists may say, it cannot be purchased as a quick fix to ongoing flood disasters.
The following are tips to help consumers considering flood insurance as an option to protect their property:
- Flood insurance policies are not instantly effective and generally require 30 days before they become effective;
- Consult with an insurance agent to purchase a flood insurance policy, and beware of insurance agents that accept the filing of a claim before purchasing a policy;
- Most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not include flood insurance, and flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy;
- Properties that have been flooded in the past may obtain flood insurance policies;
- The price of flood insurance may vary based upon the risk of flooding at the property location.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration administers the National Flood Insurance Program and provides a Q&A at floodsmart.gov/faqs.
Consumers who have additional questions may contact the Arkansas Attorney General's office at (800) 482-8982 or the Arkansas Insurance Department at (800) 282-9134 or (501) 371-2600.
Federal Trade Commission Recommendations
Act 376 of 1997 prohibits businesses from price gouging during a state of emergency.
Read about price gouging laws in Arkansas.