Scammers typically come out in numbers after a natural disaster, looking to capitalize on the tragedy and make some money from unsuspecting victims, according to C.A. Bridges and Laura Finaldi of the Herald-Tribune. From identity thieves to con artists posing as contractors, they come in all shapes and sizes.

But there are ways to spot these people, some of which are listed below. The Florida Attorney General’s Office says the most common types of fraud after a natural disaster deal with repairs, water testing/treatment, tree removal.

Check the Contractor’s Reputation

A contractor offering help after your property has damage from a natural disaster may seem like your prayers were answered, but it may be too good to be true.

The first step is to verify that the contractor is licensed since contractors cannot work in Florida without one. To check a contractor’s licensing status, go to or call the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 866-9NO-SCAM. You should also take pictures of the contractor’s license, face, car and license plate.

If you are concerned about the contractor’s authenticity, you can research the company’s Better Business Bureau profile and see if they have any complaints for unlicensed work. You should also make sure the contractor is currently insured.

A common contractor fraud technique is for the perpetrator to approach a victim without being asked and proposing giving a discount since they are using another project’s extra supplies.

Ask your insurer to evaluate your home’s damage before repairs start so you know they will be covered. You should also get at least three written, itemized estimates before repairs start.

You can let the contractor collect your insurance benefits using an Assignment of Benefits, but make sure you trust them if you do that. The contractor insisting on using an AOB to do repairs should make you suspicious.

You should not pay for all repairs before they start the job or sign a certificate of completion until you are happy with the job. You should also ask for releases from any property liens that could be placed before payment is finalized.

Getting your water checked after heavy rains, a storm surge or flooding is important since they can affect water mains and personal wells. However, scams can come from this as well.

Ask for identification of anyone claiming to be a utility provider representative before they inspect your water main or personal well. If they say the inspection is “free,” it is most likely a ploy to get you to buy their water treatment system.

To find approved water testing labs, visit or call your local health department or the Florida Department of Health at (850) 245-4444.

Most of the same information for home repairs — such as drywall or exterior cladding — can apply to tree removal, like getting multiple estimates or being suspicious of a contractor who comes up to you out of nowhere and offers to remove a tree. You should also see if the estimate includes materials/debris removal and stump grinding.

Further, it can be a good idea to look at the company’s Better Business Bureau profile and make sure the contractor’s insurance is current. Same as with home repair, you should not pay for all the work before it is done.

Ask for Credentials if They Claim They Are FEMA

It may make you feel better if you see FEMA agents or representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration, but you still need to pay attention to them.

FEMA says that government representatives will always have photo IDs on badges, and you do not need to pay them for disaster assistance, inspections or helping you fill out applications. You will never have to give your financial information to them or pay to apply for or receive disaster assistance.

“Don’t believe anyone who promises a disaster grant in return for payment,” FEMA said in a 2022 news release. “Be wary of unexpected phone calls or visits to your home from people claiming to be FEMA housing inspectors or people claiming they work for FEMA. FEMA representatives will have your FEMA application number.”

If you suspect fraudulent activity surrounding FEMA, you can report it to, fax 202-212-4926 or write to FEMA Fraud and Internal Investigation Division, 400 C Street SW Mail Stop 3005, Washington, DC 20472.

Natural disasters can bring out even more email swindles, according to John Joyce, regional corporate security manager for Regions Bank in Tampa, Florida. Joyce said that Florida has the second-most online fraud in the U.S., typically by someone pretending to be from a bank or another organization.

Once you click on a link in the email, the scammer can access your personal information. Clicking on email attachments could even install malware on your computer.

“Never give out personal information to an email or a text unless it is solicited by you,” Joyce said. “Anything that comes in unsolicited posing as a bank, verify that to make sure it’s the legitimate group that is contacting you.”