The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Resources & relief

June 17, 2011

RESOURCE: Workshops planned to teach storm victims about possible scams

— Safeguarding Joplin residents from fraudulent home repair and improvement scams related to the May 22 tornado will be the focus of a workshop today.

“We were actually doing a workshop in Springfield, and since we were so close, we decided to do this quick mini-workshop,” said Phae Howard, founder of the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud, based in Atlanta, Ga.

“We heard reports about scammers coming into Joplin (and going) after the homeowners,” Howard said. “We just want to get some good information out there.”

The workshop begins at noon at College Heights Christian Church, 4311 E. Newman Road.

Many homeowners are vulnerable to too-good-to-be-true deals and scam artists in the weeks after a disaster, when they are stressed trying to cope with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance companies, Howard said.

The workshop is free and open to the public.

“We’re not trying to sell anything,” Howard said. “We just want to educate homeowners.”

Subjects to be discussed during the workshop will include:

-- Selecting a contractor.

-- The most common scams after a natural disaster.

-- What homeowners can do to protect themselves before, during and after their contracted project.

“Pretty much everything,” Howard said.

She said she founded the center after her grandmother was financially and emotionally victimized by a fraudulent contractor.

A longer, two-hour “SmartPower” presentation will be held sometime in July in Joplin, Howard said. No details were available Thursday.

“If we can just have one person (show up), I’ll be happy, because that’s one less person who can avoid becoming a victim,” Howard said.

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