Severe storms bring out the best in most people. I was out walking yesterday evening in one of the many Tulsa metro neighborhoods hit hard by four tornadoes and/or straight line winds at nearly 100 mph. Neighbors were helping each other clean up fallen trees and branches and damage to their homes.
But unfortunately, the storms also expose the worst in others. Yesterday, I blogged about warnings from Allstate to avoid becoming a victim of clean-up and repair scams. Today, Oklahoma’s Attorney General told me the scammers are out there, and what to watch out for. Drew Edmondson says it’s easier to prevent getting scammed than to catch and prosecute after the fact.
The AG warns of two types of scams to watch out for:
- The charity scam. Those asking for donations for disaster relief, but then pocket the money. Edmondson says the elderly are especially vulnerable because they tend to be more trusting, more generous, and tend to be at home.
- The fly-by-night home repair scam. Someone wants cash up front, promises to do the job, but then disappears.
Edmondson says, “An ounce of prevention is a good idea in a time like this. You’re in a hurry to get your home repaired. You want to be generous, but also be careful.”
He has these tips to avoid getting scammed:
- Deal with local companies you know.
- Ask for references. Find out where they’ve done work before.
- Don’t pay cash in advance.
- Get a written contract.
- Check out the company first with the Better Business Bureau or Attorney General’s office. Are there complaints against the company?
And Edmondson adds: “Be very cautious of someone who knocks on your door and says they want to do construction work on your house or call you on the phone. You should be the one calling them, not the other way around.”
All good advice to avoid becoming a victim of severe weather, not just once, but twice.
If you think you’re the victim of a scam, call your local police, report the company to the BBB, and contact the Attorney General’s office in your state.