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Protecting Our Parents: Helping Seniors Avoid Scams After A Disaster

Every time there’s a huge snow storm, a cold snap, a major fire or extreme weather event, the New Crystal Restoration team knows our phone is going to ring. We’re Westchester County’s top disaster response service; the #1 company to call when you’re going to need help getting your property back to normal.

However, the same bad events that let our team know that we’re needed also signal con men and scammers that there’s an opportunity for them to go after their favorite targets: senior citizens, particularly those who have nicer homes. After a disastrous event, these con men reach out to the elderly, either on the phone or even by knocking on the front door, and very kindly offering their ‘help’. They take advantage of a traumatic event to bully senior homeowners into signing a contract for restoration services and often demand a large upfront payment or deposit. Once that deposit hits the con man’s pocket, he hits the road…leaving a senior homeowner with damage to their home AND their bank accounts!

Here are three steps you can take to protect your parents from this kind of scammer:

Step 1

Raise Awareness

The best time to fix your roof is when it’s not raining, and the best time to talk to your parents or other seniors about avoiding scams after an extreme weather event is before an extreme weather event occurs. Having a conversation about the fact this type of scam exists, that they are members of a particularly vulnerable group (even modest homeowners are targeted by scammers!), and  what to do in case they are approached can prepare your parents now about what may happen in the future.

Step 2

You Call Us, We Don’t Call You
The number one tip your parents or other senior home owners need to remember to avoid homeowner scams is that 100% of the time, home owners call the restoration company requesting the help. A legitimate restoration company will never, ever call you looking for work or show up at your door, pressuring you into handing over a deposit right away.

A common tactic used by con men is to insist that the city or local government will be around to condemn the property ‘immediately’ if action is not taken; this can frighten even very savvy seniors into handing over their money. Be aware that the city or local government never gives home restoration companies any information about what homes they’re considering condemning or even fining; that’s not how the system works. If any government body has concerns about the state of the property, these are generally addressed in writing to the property owner of record. You’ll get notices in the mail long before government officials show up at your door. Make sure your parents know this; reinforce the information periodically.

Step 3

Be Proactive: Helping Your Parents Avoid Scammers
When you know your parents or other seniors’ neighborhood has just been impacted by flooding, a storm, or other disastrous event, the best thing you can do to be safe is to be proactive. Get in touch with your parents or their caregiver right away. Get their input of the damage situation, and work with them to identify how things will be handled. If a disaster restoration service is clearly needed, call us.Otherwise, go over what answers your parents can give to anyone who comes by offering to ‘help’.  When your parents have a concrete plan in place, it’s much easier to prevent people from pushing them around: all they have to say is “No thank you” and shut the door.

Do Your Parents Need Help Right Away?

There can be nothing more nerve-wracking than caring for your aging parents from a distance – particularly when you know they’ve had a fire, flood, or other home disaster. If you’re in this situation, give us a call. We provide a wide range of disaster restoration and environmental services using today’s most effective, safe and proven green cleaning chemicals and restoration protocols. It’s the smart, safe choice for anyone with asthma, COPD, or other health concerns!