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Attorney general warns Kansans about scams

  • Published Monday, May 7, 2007, at 2:45 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008, at 5:15 p.m.

Attorney General Paul Morrison today warned Kansans to be wary as they begin the cleanup and rebuilding process following the recent severe weather that damaged Kansas communities.

"My heart goes out to the hundreds of Kansans whose homes were devastated by the recent tornado and severe weather that stuck Kansas," Morrison said.

"Unfortunately, the media coverage of a disaster area can often bring fraudulent contractors, price gouging and other con artists to a community."

Morrison encourages all consumers to beware of opportunistic scammers and con artists looking to make a profit from Kansans' misfortune. He also reminds businesses that the attorney general's office will be tracking complaints of price gouging.

"My office will be watching the situation in the Greensburg area very carefully and will do everything in our power to protect consumers and prevent price gouging," Morrison said.

Follow are several tips regarding the most common scams following a weather disaster.

Home repair rip-offs

• Do not allow a contractor, utility company or "inspector" into your home without verifying their identity.

• Contact your homeowner's insurance agent to inspect your property to determine if the dam-age is covered by your existing policy.

• Do not sign a contract for re-pairs until you and your insurance agent have agreed on the exact costs.

• Avoid price gouging by obtaining several estimates for the work that needs to be done.

• Never agree to repairs until you have a written contract stating the type and quality of work to be done, the cost of the labor and supplies and a start and end date for the project.

• Do not give a contractor a huge down payment. A typical down payment is one-third the total coast with future payments as work is completed.

• Make sure the contractor you hire has a local business or phone number. Contact your local Better Business Bureau to check their customer satisfaction.

Charity scams

There are a number of legitimate charitable organizations working to help areas affected by the recent disasters. Unfortunately, disaster areas often attract individuals looking to make a quick profit by soliciting for fake charities.

Kansas consumers should use caution with any charity you do not recognize and only contribute to those organizations willing to provide written information about their charitable efforts. If you are going to contribute, avoid cash donations and make checks payable to the organization, not the individual soliciting.

Identity theft

If any of your credit or debit cards are missing after your property is damaged or destroyed, you should call the card issuer as soon as possible. If you don't have the card issuer's telephone number, you may obtain the information from your local bank, the Web site of the company or by calling directory assistance.

If your checkbook was lost, you should put a stop payment on all lost checks by calling your bank.

If you are approached by an individual offering home improvement services or disaster relief, use caution providing your personal identifying information.

Consumers should guard their social security number, account numbers and PIN as close as possible, especially if they are in a vulnerable situation.

Price gouging

Disaster areas often experience a sudden, dramatic increase in prices for items that are in demand. Most Kansas businesses with roots in their community will not engage in price gouging, but that does not mean it does not occur. Any Kansas consumer who is a witness of price gouging in their community should contact the attorney general's office.

If consumers need further assistance, contact the Office of Consumer Protection at 785-296-3751 or 800-432-2310. For additional consumer tips, visit www.ksag.org.

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