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For immediate release Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Contact Bob Brammer 515-281-6699.

Alert from A.G. Tom Miller: Consumer Scams after Tornadoes and Floods

 

Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Attorney General Tom Miller advised Iowans to beware of a variety of scams in the wake of the tornadoes and floods.

“It's the definition of adding insult to injury -- con-artists trying to cheat tornado or flood victims,” Miller said. “We’ve seen it in past disasters. Traveling ‘scam-artists’ sometimes migrate into storm or flood areas. Why? Because there may be a high demand for repairs and clean-up, but a shortage of contractors. Because money may be available from disaster payments or insurance. And because people may let their guard down when they are in a hurry to recover from a tornado or flood. Con-artists strike vulnerable people.”

Miller joined a news conference in Cedar Rapids with the U.S. Attorney, local law enforcement officials, and the FBI.

Fraudulent contractors may drive through damaged areas, and may give a “hard sell” offering low prices or quick work, Miller said. They almost always insist that you pay in advance -- but then they fail to do the work, or do minimal work and disappear.

Miller offered tips to protect yourself from scams in the wake of a disaster:

Check out a contractor before you sign a contract or pay any money. Try to deal with an established, reputable, local contractor. Check references. Ask the Attorney General's Office if it has received complaints (515-281-5926 or 888-777-4590.)

Get it in writing! Get several written estimates for the job, and get a written contract detailing work to be done, responsibility for permits, costs, and any other promises.

Don’t pay large sums in advance! Con-artists may just “take the money and run.” If you have to make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to the supplier and the contractor. IF you suspect a scam, report it to the AG Office or local authorities.

Report price-gouging to the Attorney General. Iowa has a rule against price-gouging that goes into effect in counties with a disaster declaration. Price-gouging is charging very high prices that are not justified, and taking unfair advantage of disaster victims.

Beware of on-line schemes and charity scams. Miller said con-artists may set up web sites to make it look like they are legitimate or local contractors, and others may ask for donations but may give little of the money to actual flood or tornado victims.

Go to www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org for much more detail on preventing scams, for helpful links to FEMA and the Iowa Emergency Management Division, and for more information on safety tips for flood victims, the price-gouging rule, donation scams, etc.

If you have complaints or questions, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Div., Des Moines, IA 50319. Call 888-777-4590 (toll-free) or 515-281-5926.

Go to www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.org for much more information.

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