It's incredibly sad that there are people evil enough in the world that they would even think to victimize someone who has already been hurt by a natural disaster but the reality is that not everyone in the world is a good person.  USA Today has an article today that gives some pointers to protect yourself from these scams - check out some of those tips after the jump.

These scam artists will commonly ask for an up-front payment for their services but then you never see them again - most contractors don't operate that way. Also if they do show up and their pricing seems much lower than the average price quote, chances are they are going to use subpar materials and cut corners, leaving you with more problems than you began with.

Here are some tips from USA Today to help protect yourself:

Here are some tips to help ensure you hire a contractor who will do the job properly:

1. Be suspicious of any contractor who tries to rush you to make a decision, especially on non-emergency or temporary repairs.

2. Send away quickly any contractor who claims to be backed by the government. TheFederal Emergency Management Agency does not endorse individual contractors or loan companies.

3. Ask to see the primary contractor's driver's license and write down the number and the license plate number of his or her vehicle. Also ask to see the contractor's proof of liability and worker compensation insurance. Make sure anyone you hire is licensed and bonded, or you could be at additional risk for liability, should the contractor have an accident on the job.

4. Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.

5. Beware of contractors who encourage you to spend a large sum on temporary repairs. Payments for such repairs are covered as part of the total insurance settlement. If you run up a big expense for temporary fixes, you may not have enough money for the necessary permanent repairs. Discuss what's needed with your insurance agent or claims adjuster. And remember to keep receipts.

6. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations or get a list of reputable contractors from your insurance agent or company representative. Check out candidates on online forums, and with the Better Business Bureau, your local home builders association, consumer affairs department and your state attorney general's office before signing a contract. Never give anyone a deposit until after you have researched their background.

7. Don't pay for work up front. Most contractors will require a down payment, but that should just be a portion of the total bill. And don't pay anything until you have a written contract. Never sign a contract with blank spaces, which a crooked contractor can alter after you've signed the document.

8. Beware of price gouging. While prices often rise as demand increases, you should report exorbitant hikes to local authorities. Get all terms in writing; that includes prices for labor and materials, a precise description of the work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and estimated start and finish dates.

9. Don't pay with cash and don't sign over an insurance settlement check to the contractor. Using checks or credit cards creates a record of your payments, which will be helpful if there's a dispute.

10. Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and you are sure the work satisfies current building codes.

11. Report suspected fraud to local authorities. Also, report anyone who encourages you to fabricate an insurance claim to your insurance company, the local police, the state insurance department or the National Insurance Crime Bureau hotline at 1-800-TEL-NICB


Stay smart and do your neighbors a favor by sharing these tips with them!