Just when everyone least expects it, a natural disaster strikes. That’s how they work. There’s rarely any real warning, and residents are often left in a wake of damage without a clue about getting it repaired or finding federal relief. That creates the ideal climate for scam artists, and some of them pose as disaster inspectors.
Although most inspectors are totally above board, the bad eggs make life difficult for everyone involved. Here’s what’s happening in this part of the home inspection industry right now.
Unscrupulous Individuals Pretend to Work for FEMA
There’s only one way to become a disaster relief inspector for FEMA, and that’s by working through one of the two companies that they contract. PB Disaster Services and Vanguard EM are the only companies that FEMA uses, and they (not FEMA) are responsible for training and hiring.
A scrupulous inspector will have an official badge, and they never inspect for a fee. They only require an owner’s proof of identification and ownership of the house, and never any banking info. But homeowners rarely know this, and believe that to qualify for FEMA relief they’ll have to pay for an inspection. They also provide the homeowner with verifiable contact information.
Shady Inspectors Really Work for Someone Else
Scamming homeowners out of money for an inspection is only one way that fraudulent inspectors rob from disaster victims. FEMA says that referrals to a repair contractor could be the real motivating factor.
Just as a typical home inspector doesn’t recommend repair people, disaster inspectors never recommend contractors. They also avoid assigning a dollar amount to any damage. They only collect information, which FEMA uses later to calculate relief.
You Can Help Home Owners Protect Themselves
As a working home inspector, you have the opportunity to educate residents about the possibility of disaster fraud. American Family Mutual Insurance offers the following advice:
- Always check an inspector’s identification, including his driver’s license and FEMA credentials.
- Write down the inspector’s contact information, including license plate number, and check it before you permit an inspection.
- Get everything in writing.
- Never sign anything that has black spaces, which could be filled in by the inspector later.
Homeowners should also wait for FEMA instructions before agreeing to any repair work. And when it’s time for repairs, local contractors who have been in business in your area for a while are the safest bet. Plenty of traveling home repair scam artists prey on homeowners, especially after a disaster.
As a home inspector, you already know that integrity is worth its weight in gold. But from a home owner’s point of view, it’s sometimes difficult to know who is telling the truth. After the stress of experiencing a disaster, many homeowners are even more vulnerable.
This is why FEMA needs good and reputable home inspectors in their ranks. If you want to learn more about it, check our their page on becoming a disaster inspector.
If you’re not an inspector already, good training is the first step. That’s why ICA School offers one of the most comprehensive programs available. Enroll now and work at your own pace to earn your certification.