AG Gansler: Protect Yourself After Hurricane Sandy, Too
Be wary of home/car repair, debris removal and storm-related fraud
Baltimore, MD ( Oct. 28, 2012) - In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, your home, yard, automobile or business may be in need of repairs as a result of wind and/or water damage. Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler urges you to be wary of home repair scams and other attempts to defraud consumers that often follow in the wake of a large storm's destructive path.
"We hope the worst fears about Hurricane Sandy do not come true, but Marylanders should nonetheless always be on guard for the flood of con artists who try to take advantage of consumers after a big storm. These swindlers will try to rip off families and business owners who are desperate to get their storm damage fixed," said Attorney General Gansler. "Be careful with door-to-door salesmen using high pressure tactics to get your hard-earned money. That money may vanish while the repair 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 communities recover from a disaster. These are people you are likely to know and trust. Attorney General Gansler urges consumers to be wary of people you do not know who solicit you at your home or business.
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 home improvement contractor is licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission and to inquire about the contractor's complaint history, call 410-230-6309 or visit http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic/.
- Check to see if a tree expert is licensed with the Department of Natural Resources by visiting: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/forests/tree_expert_search.asp.
- 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.
Attorney General 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 State's Charities Division at 410-974-5534 or 1-800-825-4510
For more information on storm-related fraud, consumer complaints and insurance issues please visit these links:
- For more information on storm-related fraud from the Attorney General's 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 General's People's 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 General's 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 contractor's 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/