Protect yourself from storm scams, warns AG Cooper
Release date: 9/1/2010
Look out for hit and run scammers with Hurricane Earl
Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper today warned consumers to avoid scams related to Hurricane Earl, which forecasters predicted could brush the North Carolina coast later this week.
“Unfortunately, we’ve seen shameless scammers try to take advantage of past disasters,” said Cooper. “Don’t let con artists use this storm to take your money and run.”
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 people 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
Cooper offered the following tips to consumers:
- Do not attempt to move downed power lines. Call your utility company immediately for assistance.
- 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.
- Do not pay for work up front. Inspect the work and make sure you are 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 for the work, 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, make sure you get a written contract detailing all the 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 recent storms to make their phony pleas for donations sound more plausible. If a caller refuses to answer your questions about the charity, offers to come 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.
“If you’re trying to get ready for a hurricane or recover from one, the last thing you need is to get hit by scammers who want to make an unfair buck off of you,” said Cooper. “Let my office know if someone tries to use Earl as an excuse to scam you.”
[Please see also information on North Carolina's price gouging law and how to report price gouging
Contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6484