Oklahoma's Attorney general warns storm victims to be vigilant against fraud

Friday, May 9th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Tornado victims should protect themselves against fraudulent scams that often pop up after disasters, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Friday.

Home repair fraud, identity theft, charity fraud and price gouging are among the possible scams that Oklahomans should wary of after a tornado ripped through south Oklahoma City Thursday, Edmondson said.

Almost 400 homes were destroyed in Oklahoma City, Choctaw and Moore, and more than 100 people were injured, but no one died in the storm. About 50 businesses were also destroyed.

``There are people who capitalize on the misfortune of others,'' Edmondson said. ``So along with the enormous obstacles victims of these storms must face to rebuild their lives and property, they must also be very careful to protect themselves against fraud.''

Edmondson said criminals travel across the country to profit from such disasters, offering bogus home repair and asking for donations for nonexistent charities.

Also, personal records scattered by the tornado could provide criminals with enough data to steal an identity, Edmondson said.

Price gouging, in which businesses raise prices following a disaster because buyers will desperately pay almost any price, was outlawed following a May 3, 1999 deadly tornado in central Oklahoma.

Gov. Brad Henry activated that law Friday when he declared a state of emergency, Edmondson said.