Of­fi­cials warn res­i­dents to be leery of scam­mers

Orlando Sentinel - - HURRICANE IRMA - By David Harris dhar­ris@or­lan­dosen­tinel.com, 407-420-5471 or @DavidHar­risOS Staff Writer

Lo­cal, state and fed­eral of­fi­cials are telling res­i­dents to be wary of scam­mers in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Irma.

A num­ber of hot lines and task forces have been set up to com­bat fraud.

Polk County Sher­iff Grady Judd said any­one do­ing con­tract work should be li­censed at MyFlori­daLi­cense.com, the Department of Pro­fes­sional Busi­ness Reg­u­la­tion’s web­site.

Peo­ple should be leery of con­trac­tors who have out-of-state phone num­bers or li­cense plates.

Judd also pointed out that mu­nic­i­pal crews will be go­ing to homes within the next few weeks and will re­move de­bris for free, so there’s no point in pay­ing some­one to do it.

“In fact, in the past, we have seen peo­ple of­fer to haul away your de­bris for a fee, and then they turn around and dump it on another right-of-way to be picked up for free,” Judd said.

The U.S. Department of Jus­tice said in a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day that it had a “zero-tol­er­ance” pol­icy for hur­ri­cane-re­lated fraud.

W. Stephen Muldrow, act­ing U.S. At­tor­ney for the Mid­dle District of Florida, which in­cludes Or­lando, said he cre­ated a task force to hunt down fraud­sters.

The task force will also look for fraud­u­lent char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“Our Of­fice will con­tinue to pro­tect the rights of our hon­est cit­i­zens af­fected by this dis­as­ter and en­sure that they re­ceive the nec­es­sary pub­lic and char­i­ta­ble as­sis­tance they de­serve,” Muldrow said in a state­ment.

A Na­tional Dis­as­ter Fraud Hot­line at 866-720-5721 is avail­able for res­i­dents to re­port scam­mers.

Res­i­dents can also con­tact the Florida At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice at 866-966-7226 to see whether there are com­plaints against a com­pany or con­trac­tor.

Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer Jimmy Pa­tro­nis urged Florid­i­ans to file in­surance claims as quickly as pos­si­ble as most com­pa­nies have a dead­line.

Peo­ple fil­ing claims can call the state’s In­surance Con­sumer Helpline at 877-693-5236.

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