Better Business Bureau and Home Builders Association Issue Joint Warning to Victims of Recent Fires

The Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Oklahoma and the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa issued a joint warning Friday, August 17 to victims of Oklahoma ’s recent Fires.

Paul Kane, Executive Officer of the advised victims to be cautious and informed during the clean up and rebuilding process. ““One of the untold costs associated with disasters like the recent wildfires are losses due to fraud. Be wary of “fly-by-night” contractors attempting to swindle already limited resources by offering cheap and quick repair work, If you decide to hire a professional for the clean up or repair effort, make sure the contractor has a permanent business address, carries insurance and has been in operation for more than one year. In addition, ask for references and do your homework by researching any record of unresolved complaints. Most importantly, get a complete, clearly written contract for the work to be done and do not pay any cash up front unless you have signed a valid contract.”

Rick Brinkley, Chief Operating Officer of the Serving Eastern Oklahoma reminded victims “Following any form of natural disaster scam artists arrive on the scene to take advantage of those who have the least amount to lose.” Specifically, Brinkley stated, “Because and other state and federal agencies have been and will continue to be providing services to the victims, everyone needs to be on the lookout for scam artist who are using the names of these agencies to take advantage of victims. In the past, we have seen scam artists use homemade IDs and Jackets to visit victims telling them they are there to help. All they need is the
consumer’s Social Security Number and Bank Account numbers to transfer funds to assist them with rebuilding. The scam artists use the information to drain money from the victim’s account and to steal their Identity.”

Some signs that a contractor could be trying to take advantage of you: 1) You’re told that on this job, a contract “won’t be necessary.”; 2) You’re asked to pay for the entire job “up front” — or pay cash to a salesperson instead of a check or money order to a company; 3) You are confronted with scare tactics, intimidation or threats;
4) You’re told you’ve been “chosen” as a demonstration project at a special, low price; 5) You’re told a “special” low price is good only if you sign a contract today;
6) The contractor won’t give you references — or the references can’t be located;
7) You can’t verify the contractor’s business address.

Both Kane and Brinkley reminded everyone that disasters can strike at any time and it is best for everyone to be prepared. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.

Some of the basic protective actions are similar for multiple disasters. For example, safety is necessary when experiencing all hazards. Depending on the specific emergency, this could include plans for sheltering or evacuating. Developing a family communication plan or making an emergency supply kit are the same for most emergencies, natural disasters and terrorism. However, there are important differences among potential emergencies that should influence the decisions you make and the actions you take.

The Better Business Bureau and the Home Builders Association suggest having a basic emergency kit with the following essentials in case of a disaster:

Emergency Documents Packet:

  • Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Passport
  • Any other official, hard to replace documents
  • Contact information: Both your contact information and your emergency contacts’ info. This includes your nearest relatives, your will executor(s), and employers.
  • Will and medical directives: Add a copy of your will/living trust and medical letter of instructions (keep the originals with your legal representative). You can upload a file to Google Docs for this purpose.
  • Insurance: Homeowners, auto, medical, life, disability, and other insurance agents/brokers contact info and policy numbers

*Financial accounts: Bank, investment, and credit card/loan accounts information, including institution names, phone numbers, and account numbers*Health records: Immunization records, allergies, dietary restrictions, medications, medical/surgical treatments

  • Pet information: Description of each pet, vet contact information, and any important medical notes

*Property: Car information, home purchase papers/deeds, and other home inventory items. Supplies:
· Water and food for three days. (One gallon per person per day.)
· Blankets
· A manual can opener
· First aid kit
· Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to provide protection from the outdoor elements
· Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal hygiene purposes · Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
· Local maps
· Small battery operated radio with extra batteries or an emergency crank combination radio, flashlight, and clock device

The and recommend using FEMA’s website at to learn about the potential emergencies that could occur where you live and the appropriate ways to respond to them. When you know what to do, you can plan and prepare in advance to be ready.

The website provides information about how to protect your household and begin recovery following the initial disaster. Familiarize yourself with the signs of events that come without warning and know the local advance alerts and warnings and how you will receive them. Knowing about the local emergency plans for shelter and evacuation, local emergency contacts, the locations frequented by members of your household and the specific needs of household members including animals will help you reduce the impact of disasters, may save lives and prevent injuries during a crisis.

Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crisis also brings out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. For reliable information, lists of Accredited Businesses by industry and Business Reviews you can trust on local companies go to And, for a list of qualified, insured local contractors and repair professionals, contact the Home Builders Association of Greater Tulsa at 918-663-5820 or go to

Updated 08-20-2012

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