Disasters can strike anywhere and at any time. Whether it’s a flood, dreadful storm or even a tornado, there can be widespread damage to businesses, homes and the community. Amid the flurry of activity to provide victims with essentials like food, water, clothing and shelter, a fertile environment exists for fraud to occur. Authorities need to be aware of the potential for criminal activity and be prepared to work together to combat it.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office has experience working with disaster stricken communities to establish contractor registration programs to stop fly-by-night “storm chasers” from preying on disaster victims. This program has been a tremendous success in every community that’s implemented it. The materials include model ordinances and registration forms and certificates that can be implemented quickly without “reinventing the wheel” or taking scarce resources from other essential services.
The following is an outline for use by Disaster Fraud Task Forces across Kentucky in establishing an emergency registration program for contractors following a catastrophe. The procedures should be used as a guide but each Task Force should deal with disasters on a case by case basis depending on the type of disaster, extent of damage sustained and resources of the county.
If a disaster strikes your community, feel free to contact the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection for advice or assistance in starting a registration program to prevent disaster fraud. The toll free Consumer Protection Hotline number is 1-888-432-9257.
- Local officials should meet to be briefed on the registration program once an emergency ordinance/resolution is passed. Make sure to include emergency personnel and law enforcement representatives.
- A press release should be sent to all media sources to emphasize the emergency registration requirements. (Click here for a sample press release.)
- Establish a registration office/location for contractors.
- Distribute fliers throughout the affected area. Click here for a sample of the "Attention All Contractors" flier.) Inform victims of emergency ordinance. Provide consumer brochure "Disaster Scams".
- Begin taking registrations. It is a good idea to make a copy of each applicant's drivers license during this process.
- Contractor registration forms are received and the information is verified by intake personnel. The local officials (mayor, county judge executive or other official) evaluate and have the ultimate responsibility for approving or disapproving applicants.
- If approved, the Contractor Registration certificate is signed and issued to the contractor. Click here for a sample. (1.28mb PDF) It is also a good idea to print these foms on bright colored paper for easy visibility.
- Arrange for local law enforcement to conduct sweeps throughout the area. Request assistance in checking contractors to insure that they are registered.