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For immediate release - Thursday, August 13, 2009
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Alert from A.G. Tom Miller:
Consumer Scams after Hail and Wind Storms


Eldora / Hardin County , Iowa. Attorney General Tom Miller advised Iowans to beware of a variety of scams in the wake of recent hail and wind storms.

“It's the definition of adding insult to injury -- con-artists trying to cheat storm disaster victims,” Miller said. “We’ve seen it in past disasters. Traveling ‘scam-artists’ sometimes migrate into storm or flood areas. Why? Because there may be a high demand for repairs and clean-up, but a shortage of contractors. Because money may be available from disaster payments or insurance. And because people may let their guard down when they are in a hurry to recover from a bad storm. Con-artists strike vulnerable people.”

Fraudulent contractors may drive through damaged areas, and may give a “hard sell” offering low prices or quick work, Miller said. They almost always insist that you pay in advance -- but then they fail to do the work, or do minimal work and disappear.

Tips to protect yourself from scams in the wake of a disaster:

Check out a contractor before you sign a contract or pay any money. Try to deal with an established, reputable, local contractor. Check references. Ask the Attorney General's Office if it has received complaints (515-281-5926 or 888-777-4590.)

Get it in writing! Get several written estimates for the job, and get a written contract detailing work to be done, responsibility for permits, costs, and any other promises.

Don’t pay large sums in advance! Con-artists may just “take the money and run.” If you have to make a partial advance payment for materials, make your check out to the supplier and the contractor. IF you suspect a scam, report it to the AG Office or local authorities.

Report price-gouging to the Attorney General. Iowa has a rule against price-gouging that goes into effect in counties with a disaster declaration. Price-gouging is charging very high prices that are not justified, and taking unfair advantage of disaster victims.

Go to www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov for much more detail on preventing scams, for more information on the price-gouging rule, donation scams, etc.

If you have complaints or questions, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Div., Des Moines, IA 50319. Call 888-777-4590 (toll-free) or 515-281-5926.

Go to www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov for much more information.

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