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Don’t get hit by hurricane scams, warns AG Cooper

Release date: 8/24/2011

Look out for hit and run scammers in the wake of Hurricane Irene

Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper today warned consumers to avoid scams related to Hurricane Irene, which forecasters predicted could impact North Carolina this weekend.
 
“We’ve seen shameless scammers use disasters to take advantage of North Carolinians,” said Cooper. “Prepare now to avoid common scams and make it easier to deal with damage after the storm.”
 
The vast majority of contractors, tree removal companies and car repair shops in North Carolina are good business people, and many local merchants pitch in to help their community recover from disaster. However, some unscrupulous scammers travel to areas that have been hit by natural disasters to take advantage of consumers, Cooper warned. North Carolina residents can report scams and frauds to Cooper’s office by calling toll-free 1-877-5-NO-SCAM within the state or by filing a consumer complaint online. 
Cooper offered the following tips to consumers:
 
  • Safety is most important. If you need to evacuate on short notice, don’t risk your safety by gathering your personal items.  After the storm has passed, do not attempt to move downed power lines or attempt dangerous repairs on your own.

  • Take important financial documents with you if you evacuate, including insurance policies, mortgage documents, an inventory of the contents of your home, and any bills to pay. Also take your insurance agent’s phone number and the number for the Consumer Protection hotline, 1-877-5-NO-SCAM, with you.

  • If the storm damages your property, contact your insurance company. Some insurance companies require an adjuster’s approval before work can be done. Take pictures and videos of the damage, if possible. Cover holes in your roof or walls with a tarp to prevent additional damage if you can do so safely.
 
  • Don't pay for work up front. Inspect the work and make sure you’re satisfied before you pay. A reasonable down payment may be required for some projects, but don’t pay anything without getting a written contract. Avoid paying with cash; use a check or a credit card instead.

  • Beware of any contractor who tries to rush you or who comes to your home to solicit work. If an offer is only good now or never, find someone else to perform the work. Seek recommendations from friends, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had work performed on their homes.

  • Get three written estimates, if possible, and compare bids. Check credentials and contact the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau to learn about any complaints against the contractor. Before work beings, get a written contract detailing all work to be performed, its costs and a projected completion date.

  • For car repairs, shop around and compare written estimates. On major jobs, get a second opinion. If the mechanic recommends replacing parts, ask for the old parts. You may receive credit on some parts if the mechanic wants to keep them.

  • Beware of charity scams that use disasters to make phony pleas for donations sound more plausible.   If a caller refuses to answer your questions about the charity, offers to come to pick up a donation in person or calls you and asks for a credit card, bank account or Social Security number, it may be a scam. To report telemarketing fraud, call the Attorney General’s Office. To check up on a charity, call the Secretary of State’s office toll‑free at (888) 830‑4989.

  • For more tips on hurricane preparedness, visit readync.org.
 
“Don’t let con artists use a hurricane as an excuse to take your money and run,” said Cooper. “Let my office know if someone tries to scam you or treat you unfairly.”

For more storm-related tips, visit our Disasters page.



Contact:  Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413