5 tips to avoid flood recovery scam artists

Tragedy and disaster generally results in an out-pouring of community aid: neighbors helping neighbors clean debris, emergency aid services providing food and shelter and citizens everywhere donating clothing and supplies.

But too often, on the other side of goodwill stands an opportunistic scam artist waiting to pounce on the desperate and hurting. Consumer advocate Clark Howard, whose nationally syndicated radio show is heard locally on WSB-AM 750, provided tips on how to avoid getting scammed by people claiming to help in flood recovery efforts.

1. The answer to everybody is ‘No.’

“Unless you have a pre-existing relationship with a contractor, or you have a neighbor whose had experience with them, you have to say no or you’re in for heartache later. In these times, it’s like locusts invade within hours.”

2. Call your homeowner’s insurance company

“Even if someone doesn’t have insurance that covers whatever happened, call the homeowner’s insurance company and get referrals from them. Then, your insurer is your best best.”

3. Check referral Web sites

“Try Web sites like Kudzo.com or Yelp.com, and see if there is a company that has at least 10 recommendations. They need at least that many before you can rely on them. If not, you really can’t take them seriously.”

4. Be aware of red flags

“The people who are good at this are very charming and very non-specific. They have no meaningful local address or local phone number. If they do, it might be an answering service or their cellphone is their whole company. There should be some sense of permanence and a local presence.”

5. Don’t pay up front

“Do not give money up front, period. When it comes to water damage and having carpet removed and Sheetrock, you can get into real serious trouble and get taken.”

Use common sense and rely on concrete information to avoid being duped by all the phony contractors who emerge to take advantage of people in a vulnerable state.

Said Howard: “There are people in this area with a good heart and are trying to help. If you guess wrong and you give away your money, you’re not going to get it back. You have to be so careful.  I want people to be cautious.”

Have a story idea? Email rcash@ajc.com

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13 comments Add your comment

TN Jeff

September 22nd, 2009
5:58 pm

Houndstooth Carpet Cleaning – been in the business since the 70’s. Reliable and fair priced.


September 22nd, 2009
7:00 pm

Don’t we suspect that TN Jeff is financially involved in Houndstooth Carpet Cleaning?


September 22nd, 2009
7:02 pm

Doesn’t it appear that TN Jeff is financially involved with Houndstooth?

Billy Bob

September 22nd, 2009
9:00 pm

Billy Bob’s Carpet Service is the best and have been in business since yesterday.

What the BBB says

September 23rd, 2009
12:02 am

For what it’s worth, the Better Business Bureau gives Houndstooth a grade of B-


September 23rd, 2009
12:26 am

nter your comments here If a company does not have a truck mount system, chances are they will not be equiped to do a good enough job. Get a company with a truck mount system or go to the local store and rent a machine and do it yourself.

TN Jeff

September 23rd, 2009
7:57 am

Did I mention that I own a Houndstooth Carpet Cleaning franchise? Was I a little transparent?

John Kenna

September 23rd, 2009
8:01 am

We do not clean carpets, but perform a wide range of other services drainage work amoung them & NO we are NOT a finance company & SHOULD NOT BE EXPECTED TO FINANCE YOUR WORK!!!You should expect to pay a reasonable deposit 1/3 to 1/2 depnding on the scope) at the time that you sign a contract for services! especially when our materials are installed in ground on your property!

Bill H.

September 23rd, 2009
9:17 am

John Kenna…what the “F” do you think this is? Your personal ad space? Why don’t you stick to digging ditches and stay off the computer Bozo!


September 23rd, 2009
10:18 am

Before getting any service checkout ripoffreport.com . Put in the name of the company you wish to do service with. They will show you any negative report or complaint. These report are never deleted.


September 23rd, 2009
10:42 am

Clark Why is no one raising a stink about the issue of Flood Insurance. I come from a state where coverage for flooding in NON-FLOOD areas is included in your regular home owner policy. People forget flood insurance is supposed to be only for those who live in likely flood areas. Most of the areas that flooded were not in flood plain areas nor had they flooded previously. What appears to have happened in many cases was that storm drains were not improved to keep up with rapid growth. Why is it the insurance companies always get away withou paying. Perhaps we now know how those who suffered through Katrina felt. Clark help us do soemthing about the abilaity of health and home owner insurance companies to change the rules when they want.

Ketih Mercer

September 23rd, 2009
12:59 pm

I think the best thing to do in this situation is to think prudently and make smart decisions.

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