Md. at­tor­ney gen­eral warns of scams fol­low­ing a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter

The Star Democrat - - REAL ESTATE -

BAL­TI­MORE — Hur­ri­cane Florence is head­ing to­ward the Mid-At­lantic this week, and there will likely be many in­di­vid­u­als af­fected by the se­vere weather. Un­for­tu­nately, fraud­u­lent and un­scrupu­lous in­di­vid­u­als of­ten use nat­u­ral dis­as­ters as an op­por­tu­nity to prey upon those im­pacted by the weather.

“Mary­lan­ders should al­ways be on guard for the flood of con artists who try to take ad­van­tage of con­sumers af­ter a big storm,” said At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian E. Frosh. “Be care­ful with door-to-door sales­men us­ing high pres­sure tac­tics to get your hard-earned money. I urge all Mary­lan­ders to get in­formed about the pos­si­bil­ity of scams re­lated to storm re­cov­ery, and to take steps to avoid fall­ing vic­tim to these de­cep­tive tac­tics.”

Some of the most com­mon scams that oc­cur be­fore and af­ter nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in­volve char­i­ties, in­sur­ance, and clean-up/re­pair ser­vices. Char­ity scams take ad­van­tage of your gen­eros­ity by ask­ing for dona­tions that will never reach those ac­tu­ally in need. In­sur­ance scams play on home­own­ers’ fears, usu­ally by calling and warn­ing that flood in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums are due just prior to a storm hit­ting the area. Clean-up/de­bris re­moval and home re­pair scams tend to of­fer quick and cheap ser­vice, but may not de­liver on those prom­ises or are un­able or un­li­censed to per­form the ser­vice they are of­fer­ing.

Be es­pe­cially care­ful of the “storm-chaser” scam, not to be con­fused with storm-chasers who pur­sue se­vere weather events for cu­rios­ity or sci­en­tific rea­sons. Storm-chaser scam­mers are con­trac­tors who de­scend on storm­rav­aged ar­eas and have home­own­ers sign ex­tremely vague con­tracts while they are over­whelmed by the dam­age to their homes. These con­tracts do not have a scope of work or price, and usu­ally com­mit the home­owner to use that con­trac­tor for what­ever work and price their in­sur­ance com­pany de­ter­mines. If the con­sumer does not use them, they have to pay a large buy­out fee. Some of these con­trac­tors may not com­plete the work or may use cheap ma­te­ri­als and shabby crafts­man­ship. To avoid fall­ing vic­tim, you should get re­pair quotes from mul­ti­ple sources, check the con­trac­tor’s ref­er­ences, and con­firm that they are li­censed and reg­is­tered to work in your area.

Pro­tect your­self with in­for­ma­tion about the dan­gers of scams re­lated to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. The Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion of the Of­fice of the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of­fers sev­eral pub­li­ca­tions on­line, in­clud­ing Home Re­pair Scams and Do­nat­ing to Char­i­ties, that can help you iden­tify le­git­i­mate or­ga­ni­za­tions and busi­nesses and keep you safe from scams and swindlers. If you feel that you have been vic­tim­ized by a scam, you can file a com­plaint on­line at www. mary­lan­dat­tor­ney­gen­eral.gov or call the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Di­vi­sion at 410-528-8662.

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