Homeowners affected by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey have already absorbed a body blow from damaged homes and lost possessions.
Now, they're bracing for another: repair scams.
After weather calamities, fraudsters — also known as "storm chasers" — exploit the severe strain on insurance companies. In affected cities, like Houston, due to the extent of damage, insurers have had to recruit independent claims adjusters, some from out of state. This gives scammers an opportunity to sell themselves to unsuspecting homeowners.
The overall bill will be steep: The cost of Irma and Harvey will range between $150 billion to $200 billion, including property damage and lost output.
While filing insurance claims, consumers should keep detailed records of communications, and be wary of potential scammers.
"If you find yourself in a situation where you signed the dotted line without checking with your insurance company first, give them a call," Chris Hackett, senior director at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told CNBC.
In the meantime, government agencies are stepping in. U.S. attorneys in four Florida districts have formed fraud task forces. The National Center for Disaster Fraud, formed in response to Hurricane Katrina, also has a hotline.
Also in Florida, the nonprofit Citizens Property United, which provides insurance for homeowners who can't obtain private coverage, has warned policyholders to "be wary of unlicensed contractors or deals that sound too good to be true."
"It's terrible that there are people who will take advantage of storm victims, but we see it all the time at BBB," said spokeswoman Katherine Hutt. "Storm victims need to protect themselves and be vigilant."
"If someone shows up at your house unannounced and claims to be an insurance adjuster, do not invite them into your home. Ask for company ID. If they don't have any, ask them to leave your property and shut the door," Hutt said. "If they do have identification, call your insurance company to verify. Don't give them any information until you've confirmed their identity, and never give them any money."
Beware that phony insurance adjusters and contractor scammers will frequently insert themselves between homeowners and insurance companies, according to Angie Hicks, co-founder and chief marketing officer of Angie's List, a home-services consumer-review site.