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This has been quite the week, learning a fellow author has lost everything in Hurricane Harvey flooding, marking 9/11 and remembering that day and the ones that followed while working in D.C., and now family members who evacuated from Florida and Hurricane Irma staying here (yes, Northern Kentucky has become their port in the storm.)

I want to take a moment to wish you safety, health, happiness, and ease.

author dog, dog pets, therapy dog, cozy dog, best friend, hurricane relief, hurricane recoveryBe good to yourselves and others.

Kalli’s been working extremely hard doing her part for hurricane relief — helping the Irma evacuees keep their minds off what might await them at home by keeping them busy petting her.

Then, when it’s time to sleep, she does that all-out, too.

So that’s her lesson for us all – “work” hard, rest hard!

If you are a subscriber to my newsletter, you know that my executive assistant, and former Washington Post colleague, Kay Coyte, contributes a monthly Consumer Tip. This consumer advice series is inspired by TV reporter Elizabeth Danniher, who produces Helping Out segments for the Sherman, Wyoming, station. Below is a timely tip from Kay.
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By Kay Coyte

Scams often follow disasters, especially major storms such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that homeowners and renters are getting robocalls telling them their flood premiums are past due and that they need to submit a payment immediately. Don’t do it, advises Colleen Tressler, a Federal Trade Commission consumer education specialist. Instead, contact your insurance agent. If your agent can’t help you, contact the insurance company directly. If you have a policy with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP Direct), call 800-638-6620.

Also, be wary of strangers who come to your door claiming to be insurance adjusters or contractors offering to clear debris or make repairs. And beware of robocalls asking for insurance payments or personal information.

“Unfortunately, hurricanes often attract scam artists seeking to profit off people in times of crisis,’’ said Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, explained to the Miami Herald this week. “Consumers who sustain damage during the storm should call their insurance company first before signing over the rights of their insurance policy to someone else.”

Richard Johnson, of USAA, which specializes in insuring military families, told CNN insurers have a reliable network of repairers. He also advises to never pay a contractor upfront; asking for payment before work is completed is “an immediate red flag.”

If you suspect Hurricane Irma fraud, call the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Consumer Services Insurance Consumer Helpline at 877-693-5236. In southwest Texas, contact the Texas Department of Insurance consumer protection hotline at 1-800-252-3439 or the Better Business Bureau of Houston and South Texas.

FEMA, of course, has its Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 (toll free). And reporting it to the FTC’s complaint site helps law enforcement agencies bring scam artists to justice and put an end to unfair and misleading business practices.