While Florida residents rebuild from the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian, law enforcement officials are warning of potential scam artists trying to take advantage of the chaos.
Florida Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis cautioned that law enforcement will be tough on scammers.
“There’s going to be absolutely zero tolerance for the predators that come into the state of Florida that prey on citizens,” he told News4JAX.
Patronis in particular warned of home and car insurance scams, and recommended that residents file an insurance claim with their insurer after any property damage, and to not give money to anyone offering repairs.
“They’ll be predators on your claim, and if you give anybody cash at your doorstep to institute any repairs, you might as well be setting it on fire. There’s no way you’re going to get any of that money back to the claims process,” he explained. “Starting that process as best as you can with your insurance carrier, do it online, get in the queue, let them start processing that claim. Let them get you some money.”
Patronis also said that those with FEMA flood insurance could receive money that way, and warned of other possible scams such as fake charities or fraudulent GoFundMe accounts.
“They will take a hard-luck story. They’ll go steal images off Facebook. They’ll go post it on the internet and suck dollars out, making sure that they will not go to anybody that really needs it,” he said.
Reputable organizations to donate money through are The Florida Disaster Fund, The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, according to Patronis.
Volunteers from Virginia, Massachusetts and Ohio also joined forces to aid recovery efforts at Fort Myers Beach.
The 1,000-member task force includes trauma surgeons and structural engineers working 12-hour shifts searching for people who may be trapped.
Patronis said the crews searched through the rubble of 6,000 homes. In a span of 24 hours, crews saved two people — one of whom had suffered cardiac arrest.
“They’re finding people. They’re pulling people out of the rubble, out of the challenges,” he said.
According to a statement by Governor Ron DeSantis, 1,600 people were rescued by October 2.
The governor’s office stated that 1,200 law enforcement officers from 50 agencies across the state had been deployed on various missions, with more than 1,700 Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) officers assisting local agencies with evacuation and response efforts.
The Florida National Guard was also deployed to 14 counties to coordinate emergency response missions and clear routes flooded with debris. They are being assisted by the Coast Guard to land helicopters in search-and-rescue missions.
The governor also stated that drones are also being used to support task forces and to assess damages from the storm.