Fraud attempts reported
By By Mary-Allison Lancaster Managing editor
Nearly five months after Hurricane Ivan struck the Gulf Coast and surrounding counties, scams are still running rampant, despite the heavy warnings officials have consistently touted.
Sheriff Grover Smith noted recently that he has received two separate incidents regarding fraud, in one case an individual was handing out numbers directed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
She called the sheriff's office because she felt like it was a scam, he said. In return, he told her and warns others no matter what, do not send money.
In this alleged incident, the contractor handed the resident a FEMA number. When the resident called the number, she was told there was no affiliation, Smith said.
Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said he also had been contacted by area residents who received similar phone calls.
FEMA posted a similar scam in September that occurred in Pennsylvania. Officials said callers were promising victims they were eligible for a sum of money and asked for a one-time fee.
FEMA officials continued noting the caller has a financial institution routing number. The caller reads the numbers, asks if they're correct and anticipates the victim will provide the correct numbers.
Smith also said there were several other incidences in which people offered to do work at a good rate, took part of the money and never came back to do the work.
Fraud scams are not going unnoticed, and if caught, scammers could very well be looking at time in jail. An Andalusia man was arrested when it was discovered he was connected to a contracting scam in Florida.
Rodney Russell Garvin, 36, is currently being held in the Okaloosa County Jail and was denied bail or bond. If found guilty, Garvin could be looking at jail time.
In Baldwin County, residents have reported making partial or full payments for contracting jobs and contractors have failed to show up for the job.
Residents suspecting fraud should contact the city and check to make sure contractors have a license, or ask for credentials in person. Other red flags the contractor is running a scam are providing a local wireless number or advertising a Post Office Box address.
One contractor located in Orange Beach, Ala. said that trust should be immediately broken when workers show up with out of state tags when he was claiming to be local.
Smith offers more solid advice and warns residents to not pay for work until it's performed, get a written estimate and always report acts of fraud.
FEMA offers the following tips to victims suspecting fraud: