nashville tornado cookeville
Cookeville. Photo by @SteelersFanTN

Last week, officials declared a Level 3 state of emergency for the Middle TN region as the area continued to address the devastation and damage from Tuesday’s storm. Sadly, con artists are quick to take advantage of those impacted by the tragedy. Better Business Bureau serving Middle TN and Southern KY is warning the region to do their research on charitable donations, insurance claims, and even in hiring a contractor.

For Donors

After a storm, people want to help in any way possible, and that often means contributing to fundraisers for victims. Sadly, scammers usually take advantage of these moments of vulnerability to deceive donors. One of the potential ways this happens is through crowdfunding sites. “We recommend to always give to well-known community organizations unless you know the individual,” says Robyn Householder, CEO, and President of BBB serving Middle TN and Southern KY. If you plan on giving to charities, BBB also has these tips.

For contributions and donations, please refer to the following resources:

Days after for those directly affected

Over the next several days, it is important that you fully understand your rights and responsibilities. Recognize that you may be emotionally distressed, so have a trusted friend or family member assist you. Personalized help is also available from the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance at locations on their social media accounts.

  • If your insurance policy has been lost or destroyed or if you are confused about the policy benefits or exclusions, contact your insurance company to find out what coverages you have and request a copy of the policy.
  • Document the damage to your property and possessions thoroughly. Take pictures or video if possible. Go from room to room and create a detailed account of your belongings if it is safe to do so. People may not be allowed near their property until emergency responders, and local authorities have secured the area. Keep all your receipts spent on supplies and living expenses for future reimbursement.
  • Make any temporary repairs to limit further damage to your home or business. You may be liable for damage that occurs after a storm has passed, so make temporary repairs, such as boarding up broken windows or throwing a tarp over a leaky roof. Beware of contractors who may try to offer these services for exorbitant fees. Be sure to get quotes in writing in advance or seek out volunteer groups in your area that may be providing assistance for free.
  • Do not make any permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company. Make sure you understand how your insurance company will reimburse your repair costs. Your insurer might not fully compensate you for repairs made without their authorization.
  • Do not hand over an insurance check to a contractor for repairs before work being started. Never give more than one-third of the job price upfront and make sure that your insurance company has approved all repairs before your final payment is given to the contractor.