Be wary of home/car repair, debris removal and storm-related fraud
BALTIMORE ( July 1, 2012) After the big storm, your home, yard, auto or business may be in need of major repairs as a result of the wind or water damage. Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler urges you to be wary of home repair scams and other consumer fraud that often follow in the wake of the storms destructive path.
After any big storm well often see a sudden gust of con artists who swoop in hoping to take advantage of desperate families and business owners, said Attorney General Gansler. Be wary of door-to-door salesmen using high pressure tactics to get your hard-earned money. You may never see that money again while the job goes undone.
The vast majority of home repair contractors, tree removal companies and car repair shops in Maryland are reputable businesses doing good work for their customers. Many are eager to help their neighbors and their community recover from a disaster. These are people you are likely to know. Attorney General Gansler urges consumers to be wary of those so-called businesses you do not know.
Warning signs that consumers should look for following severe weather include:
-- Traveling salesmen who come knocking on your door immediately after a disaster
-- High-pressure sales tactics
-- Demands for up-front payments
-- Demands for an immediate decision
-- Advance-fee loans that guarantee a loan to rebuild your home or business
Before you give anyone your money, Attorney General Gansler advises Maryland homeowners and small businesses to be cautious and:
-- Check to see if a contractor is licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission by calling 410-230-6309 or visiting http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic/ . Consumers can also ask the Commission about the contractors complaint history.
-- Deal only with contractors who have an established Maryland business.
-- Obtain at least three bids for major repair work and check references. Be cautious if one of the bids is much lower than the others.
-- Make certain that all important details concerning the work are written into the bid and contract, including: all of the work that the contractor has agreed to perform, the dates the work will begin and is expected to be completed, the total cost of the work, the type and quality of materials to be used, how and when payments will be made, and the provisions of warranties on the materials and labor.
AG Gansler also advises consumers to be wary of phony relief efforts, fraudulent charities and scam artists who use the name of an organization similar to a well-known charity. Marylanders should contribute only to organizations that they know well and that willingly provide written information about their charitable efforts. Consumers should avoid making cash donations and always make checks payable to the organization, not the individual soliciting.
-- Check that a charity is registered with the state as required by law, by calling the Maryland Secretary of States Charities Division at 410-974-5534 or 1-800-825-4510
For more information on storm-related fraud, consumer and insurance issues please visit these links:
-- For more information on storm-related fraud from the Attorney Generals Consumer Protection Division: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/edge111.htm and http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/127.pdf
-- For information and a video on tree damage and insurance issues from the Attorney Generals Peoples Insurance Counsel Division: http://www.oag.state.md.us/PIC/index.htm
-- If you wish to file a consumer complaint - other than home repair - contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 410-528-8662 or 1-888-743-0023 toll-free in Maryland. You can also file a consumer complaint on line by visiting: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/complaint.htm
-- Learn more about consumer scams by visiting the Attorney Generals Consumer Protection Division website at: http://www.oag.state.md.us/Consumer/index.htm
-- For home repair consumer information; to see if a contractor is licensed, the contractors complaint history or to file a complaint, call the Maryland Home Improvement Commission at 410-230-6309 or visit the MHIC website at: http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic/