Oklahoma Attorney General Warns About Scams Following Disaster
TULSA, Oklahoma - Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued an "Oklahoma Disaster Scam Prevention Packet" and a second warning Sunday to beware of the home repair schemes and charity fraud that typically follow weather damage.
"We know from past experience that this type of damage attracts criminals looking for ways to take advantage of Oklahomans," Pruitt said. "We're getting the message out now so people can be aware of such quick-fix schemes and spread the word to neighbors and family members before they become victims."
The attorney general said home repair and charity fraud are the most likely scams Oklahomans will encounter after storms.
"Within the next few days, home and business owners will want to repair storm damage quickly, but we caution them to be patient and make sure they are using a reputable home repair contractor," Pruitt said. "Investigators with our Public Protection Unit have prosecuted unscrupulous repair workers, commonly called travelers who follow storms across the state to profit from the misfortune of others."
Pruitt suggests the following tips for choosing a proper contractor or repair service:
- Ask people you trust for referrals;
- Whenever possible, deal with local firms;
- Check out the repair service with the Attorney General's Public Protection Unit and the Better Business Bureau;
- Ask for customer references;
- Get written estimates from several firms;
- Don't do business without a written contract;
- Get all guarantees, warranties and promises in writing;
- Agree on start and completion dates and have them written into the contract.
Pruitt cautioned Oklahomans to be wary of repair services and contractors who:
- Solicit door-to-door;
- Offer discounts for finding other customers;
- "Just happen to have" materials left over from a previous job;
- Accept only cash payments;
- Pressure you for an immediate decision;
- Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front.
Pruitt said storm victims also must be aware of identity theft from lost documents and charity fraud. Charity fraud can happen with local door-to-door solicitations or e-mails and phone calls from overseas con artists.
"Donating to an organization that is well-known and respected in the community is the best way to combat this type of fraud," Pruitt said.