United Way, Polk Co. sheriff’s office team up to help Polk tornado victims from fraud

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (rWFLA) – After a storm hits, the next threat to victims are schemes.

On Tuesday, the United Way of Central Florida went door to door to talk to tornado victims in Kathleen about what services are available.

People in the Kathleen area of Polk County are cleaning up after an EF-2 tornado swept through just before midnight on Oct. 28.

The case managers felt it was important to bring along a sheriff’s deputy to differentiate themselves from scammers who are also knocking on the victims’ doors.

“We know that there’s quite a bit of families and individuals that are in need but unfortunately due to some of the scammers, they don’t know who to turn to,” said Christina Criser Jackson, President & CEO of United Way of Central Florida.

“These are real-life people who can provide real-life help. That’s kind of the reason we’re here is to escort them so that they know that they’re legitimate,” said Scott Wilder, Polk County Sheriff’s Office director of communications.

United Way Director of Community Resources Jessica Vecchio has heard stories about fraud from people in the neighborhood.

Some say scammers have told people without home damage that they need to repair their roof and/or windows. To do so, they need them to give them their power of attorney.

“We’ll take care of it for you,” they said.

“Don’t provide information and personal information. You have the Better Business Bureau. You can call the state to verify if the person truly is legit. The other issue that we’re having is price gouging, especially with the tree removal service,” said Vecchio.

Some companies have tripled their usual rate.

“Don’t just rely on that one person because they might be charging you double, triple the going rate. Get several estimates so that you know you’re getting a fair deal,” said Wilder.

Wilder also suggests verifying the contractor has a state license to verify state licenses with the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulations. The office can be reached by phone at (850) 487-1395.

If you need to be connected to resources or want to find out what resources are available to you, you can contact United Way by dialing 211 or 888-370-7188 or text your zip code to 898-211.

United Way can also be reached by email at us211help@gmail.com.

United Way can provide referrals to a number of services including food, water, clothing, temporary shelter, daycare, senior services, financial counseling, clean-up crews, state & federal assistance, emergency financial assistance, food distribution centers and grief counseling.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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